Answer: There are several shrubs you could try. The evergreen I would suggest for a damp soil is Ilex glabra or inkberry holly. For all season interest among deciduous shrubs you might like the shrubby dogwoods such as Ilex sericea (some of the named cultivars have interesting brightly colored stems in colors such as red or gold or green for winter), Ilex verticillata (a deciduous holly with great berries), Aronia arbutifolia (brilliant red fall color, red berries), Hamamelis spp. (witchhazels are large shrubs to small trees and bloom in either fall or early spring depending on species) and Itea virginica (spectacular fall color, fragrant bloom in June, berries). Your local county extension and local professionally trained nursery staff may have additional or different suggestions based on a more detailed understanding of the growing conditions where you want to plant these. With clay based soil it is important to loosen the soil across a very wide area (three or fouor feet across for a shrub would not be too wide) and about a foot deep when you plant so that the roots are able to spread more easily. You also need to avoid leaving slick smooth sides on your planting hole, rough it up so the edges and sides of the hole are irregular. Finally, adding compost, rotted down fall leaves, or other organic matter is good but you do need to be selecting plants that can tolerate the native soil. Good luck with your planting this spring!
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