Shrub advice for a tricky location in Virginia

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Hi all, we have a tricky backyard that we are trying to get looking nicer. It is basically in two levels, the bottom is where you walk out from our house has grass, and then we have a steep slope (with a dozen stairs) up to a wooded area. In this small space (maybe a quarter acre) we have about 15 full grown white oak and beech trees. The steep slope is planted with azaleas. The problem is that the azaleas seem to be dying - they are probably 30-40 years old. We would like to start replacing them with native shrubs, but there are so many leaves that clog the slope and it's so steep that it seems like it will be practically impossible to maintain anything there.

Does anyone have ideas on how to deal with the leaves or what would be good to plant there?
 
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Pick the plants you like and just move the leaves out of the way when you plant. Push them back underneath the plants as mulch when you’re done with the planting.
 
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I'd like to see a photo of this garden to see just how steep it is. I know of one or two gardens here in the UK on a very steep slope which have been painstakingly terraced by using a lot of muscle to make 'steps' right across a bank with low retaining walls. It may be a lot of work, but is very effective when finished, and very much easier to get access to the plants, as well as retain water.
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As for what to plant, a lot depends on your own preferences, and I assume that the new shrubs will all prefer acid soil if the azaleas are there now?
 
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OK, here are a couple photos. The bare ones are current, February pictures. Note the crazy amount of leaves! I've included one picture of the azaleas in bloom last April. 10 years ago they were much fuller. Terracing probably would be helpful but also sounds expensive. Obviously we are also in progress on fixing the back fence where a neighbor's poplar recently fell and smashed it.


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Firstly, I totally agree with @cpp gardener and would use the leaves as suggested for mulch. If that were my bank to plant, I'd be thinking of tough stuff that looks good all the time, and a good mixture rather than all the same. I'd go for low growing plants that like drained soil, and keep the more specialised ones for the flatter part of the garden.
I thought of Juniper blue chip, or another low growing spreader, with Bergenia, and Lavender Munstead, Vinca minor and Thyme, and creeping Phlox. Maybe adding some winter Jasmine, and a whole lot of spring bulbs (to plant next Autumn - or Fall as you call it) and dwarf grasses like variegated Carex in between. As I said before, it's really a matter of choices, but tough and drought resistant as well as interesting for me.
 

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