Suggestions anyone?

Anyone feel like helping me brainstorm ideas for what to plant in front of my north facing porches? I'm thinking something that grows about 2-3 feet high, looks decent all year (deciduous is fine if it's still reasonably attractive denuded), with at least one period of Really Nice (blooming especially would be nice, but I'll take fun foliage or seedpods or fruit), and will tolerate partial sun/ partial shade and live without too much babying from me, including getting through the summer in Portland without having to be watered much once it's established.
I'm toying with the idea of azaleas, but the foliage doesn't thrill me, and since that's mostly what we'd be looking at all year I'd like some other suggestions. Any good ideas? I'd like to consider all options, though I'm really liking the thought of something that at least at some point throws out a nice flame-orange or purple or the like.
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well you had me for a moment until you mentioned flame orange and purple......soooooo, there's Hellebore in colors ranging in temperatures from white with grape or dark freckles, deep burgundy, red's, and an almost black one. Being in Portland, you have a good access to awesome nurseries and shouldn't have problems finding these.
Then there is Pieris. A slow growing shrub. Has beautiful flowers ranging in colors from creamy whites, pinks, deep red's (one called Valley Valentine comes to mind). And is evergreen like the Hellebore's leaves are.
Dry shade you can go with Epimediums. Trycirtis or toad lilies are late bloomers and shade lovers. Everyone does hosta's but there are some awesome leaf textures with some of the better varieties of hosta's.
There are dwarf varieties of azalea's. Then there are a wide assortment of hydrangea's in variegation and flower colors (Oak Leaf have white blossoms and will get quite large, but there are dwarf varieties of these too)
I suggest you call Forest Farms nursery and get their catalog and be amazed by their reasonable prices and incredible selection. they're in Oregon. 541-846-7269 or website www.forestfarm.com and no, I'm not affiliated with them, just ordered from them and am impressed with selections (the book is 518 pages thick and I've only gotten half way thru, I've already found a black twig dogwood!<g>) the list is endless. Good luck to you. let us know what you decide to plant. madgardener, up on the ridge, back in Faerie Holler, overlooking English Mountain in Eastern Tennessee, zone 7?, Sunset zone 36

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madgardener wrote:

This has also crossed my mind, but don't they need a lot of water? I'm pretty sure I'd need to be watering them every week in the summer. And this year being so dry, it's really a reminder not to waste so many resources on coddling the garden. Maybe I need to stop by a native plants nursery.
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I have a low hedge of Daphne odora growing along the north side of my house. It's blooming right now (I'm north of you on Sauvie Island) and the scent is fabulous. Not exactly the colors you wanted, but it is an attractive plant all year and low maintenance, too. Karen
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Anonny Moose wrote:

I've thought about daphne, but I'm a bit concerned about the ant issue, especially if I grow a whole hedge. I'm looking to fill 4 beds about 3 x 8 ft each. Do you get ants all over yours? A friend of mine who lives not too far away loves her daphne, but she does get lots of ants.
I may just have to have someone come help me design mixed beds.
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I've never seen ants in my daphne. Why would ants be attracted to it?
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