Who says Burning Bush is only great in the fall?

Euonymus alatus, or Burning Bush, is planted for its incredible fall color. It positively glows, bright red against a backdrop of already naked deciduous trees and the last few hanging leaves of autumn. The stems are flattened and interesting, which is why it’s sometimes called Winged Euonymus. It’s less acclaimed during the spring and summer months, overplanted in some areas and over-sheared to look blocky and underwhelming. Many gardening sites describe it as unattractive except in fall(1), but it doesn’t have to be.  Look!:

Euonymus

This planting is in a commercial parking lot and is about 6 years old.  The cultivar (I don’t know what it is, probably a varietal of ‘Compactus’) is about 3-4′ tall and wide this year, and it’s one of the softer-leaved Euonymus as opposed to the waxier-leaved species.

In the first picture, you can see how its light green to yellow foliage is bright where the leaves receive the most sun.  Plants that receive less light are a darker green.

The second picture shows this light chartreuse of the uppermost leaves – those that get bright light all day from their southern exposure.  Notice also how well this color contrasts with the dark red to burgundy foliage of the Crimson King maple in the background.  (In a perfect world, those two trees would switch position, with the CK maple next to the Euonymus and the green-leaved maple behind it for alternating color palettes and maximum contrast).

In the bottom panel, you can see the open habit of the Euonymus, how the branches arch out and away from the plant’s center.  Note another nice contrast: the light green foliage with the dark brown stem structure.  The berries are just setting, and they’ll turn to bright red Christmas lights of interest this winter.

It’s not always easy to do hedges and grouped plantings well, and this one is quite nice, especially for a commercial landscape.  I’m always happy to see something besides Laurel, Rhododendron and Oregon Grape.

(1) Most of the Euonymus alatus that I see looking rough has insect, disease and/or irrigation problems.  These plants benefit from a regular water supply, especially when they are young. They aren’t plant-it-and-forget-it shrubs, but they’re close.

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