The new shrub definitely went in a whole lot easier than the willow came out! It's rather hard to see in the slanted morning sun, but the plant I chose for the featured corner of my "back bed" is a purple ninebark, physocarpus opulifolius. This particular cultivar goes by several different names, including 'Diablo,' 'Diabolo,' and 'Monlo':
I've admired the purple ninebarks for a couple of years now... and when I saw one darkly glowing behind a fun piece of garden art over at Empress of Dirt, my admiration was further inflamed into desire. My only problem was figuring out where I could put it in my small yard, especially since my google searches turned up wildly different reports of mature size.
Where it is, it can get to its largest reported size of 8-10ft. tall and wide if it wants. It can also stay closer to the smaller reported size of 6ft. without ruining the look of the garden. It adds the dark foliage that I love to play with, and I can handle the pinky-looking flowers for a short time since they mature into lovely reddish clusters.
I have it underplanted with the same hellebores that I pulled out to get to the willow roots--we'll see if they survive or if they're as fussy as reported. There's a panicum virgatum 'Rotstrahlbusch' planted on the other side of it, as well as 'Little Spire' Russian sage, a rose, a few 'The Blues' little bluestem, and some dwarf Siberian iris. I hope that the dark foliage of the ninebark will help the lighter purple/blue plants really pop.
I need to figure out a good trailer for the front edge of that circle, though. I've already used thymes under the Japanese maple in the front, so I would like to find something different... something with a nice dark green that will complement the purple ninebark leaves. If it could be something that flowers in the summer (after the dwarf iris in front if it is done) that would be great--and I'm not married to the idea of using a perennial.