Pairing plants in the garden is one of the things I struggle with. I take heart in the fact that I think it takes a lot of gardeners a long time to get the knack of what looks best with what, and that the beauty of gardening is that you can (almost) always move plants around when things don't work out the way you want them to.
Mother Nature often seems to know more about combinations than many gardeners do. On occasion a plant will pop up in a place you never intended but look great with its neighbors. And then, every once in a while, I actually do something right.
I've been very happy with my purple smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple') because it's one of the few different foliage colors in the "main" garden. One thing I've been noticing this summer is that I need to work on getting more texture in the garden in the form of foliage color, shape and size. The purple smoke bush is a nice break from all that midtone green.
It's growing in part sun vs. full sun, so I doubt it will ever "smoke," that is, develop the fluffy blossoms. That's actually OK with me because I don't think they are all that great looking, especially when they start to fade. But wouldn't it be great of purple smoke bushes had small, bright pink flowers?
Guess what? Mine does. Well, it doesn't really, but I planted clematis 'Princess Diana' next to it to wrangle up the purple foliage of the shrub (this is one of my favorite ways to grow clematis). She's doing a great job of showing off this year (and it would be even more beautiful if the stupid anemones would stop acting like they are on speed) and I love how the elongated pink flowers really look like they are part of the smoke bush.