Suggestions for a shrub in clay soil on a steep slope

Jun 15, 2019
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western NC
Hardiness Zone
United States
I'm working on the end of my driveway, in zone 7A. It's part sun with a heavy slope, and red clay soil. The area is about 40' long, and roughly 10' deep.

It's been virtually untouched for years, covered with blackberry vines, poison oak, and yellow jackets! I've attacked it this week, though, and cleared all of the mess out, but now I have a big, empty slope! I dug shallow ledges and covered it with my excess Mondo Grass to prevent erosion, but it's not beautiful; just functional.

The only salvageable plant was Blue Juniper, which seems great for the conditions but I don't love the appearance. I really need to dig it all up and move it around so that it has some sort of manageable shape.

So what I'm hoping to do is mulch the whole thing, then just have Mondo Grass at the bottom of the slope (closest to the driveway), then slightly above that I'll have some light purple bearded irises planted (I know they don't love clay soil, but I have close to 100 excess bulbs and nowhere to put them). Then I want to put in patches of the Blue Juniper.

But the question is, what should I do above the Blue Juniper that has a little bit of height (3-4' would be ideal, I think), some color, works well in clay soil on a heavy slope, is fine with 7A winters, and is both deer and rabbit tolerant?

I'm also open to doing another line of shrubs above this specific line of shrubs, too.

On the other side of the drive, I have a much more gentle slope. It's mulched with a Mondo Grass border and a Butterfly Bush as the centerpiece (with dark purple flowers), then around the bush I have Hostas, Autumn Joy sedum, and then a mix of irises, day lilies, and Easter lilies. So I want to follow the same style of short-to-tall, and utilize plants and colors that match well with what I already have.

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