Plant advice, really. I live in San Francisco, which is zone 10B according to the government, or zone 17 according to Sunset Magazine. Our house faces NW on the front, and SE (obviously) on the back. These are zero lot line houses, so there are no side yards.
The front area is very small. 4 years ago we planted a Peppermint Willow tree, which is growing well, about 8 feet from the front of the house. Right by the house is a brick planter, about 10 feet long (across the front of the house), 2.5 feet wide (front to back) and about 2 feet deep, although there is just dirt below it so it’s as deep as it needs to be. I’m having trouble growing what I want there.
Whenever there is sun this planter gets afternoon sun starting at around 1:30 pm and lasting anywhere from 3 to 8 hours, depending on how long the day is. The tree filters the sun a little, but not much; it’s not directly in front of the planter.
I tried to grow a rhododendron and it wouldn’t grow and finally died. I’ve tried to grow jasmine, and it is just sitting there, not growing, gradually declining. I successfully grow some plants with big purple spear-shaped leaves that sprouted huge stalks every few months, but it got huge and ugly and I tore it out. I then dug out all the soil down to the bottom and replaced it with commercial garden soil. Our hot water boiler has an output that drips slightly acidic water near one end, but it only seems to affect a few inches of soil.
I would dearly like to grow something with flowers, fragrant flowers for preference, but we don’t get freezes here and a lot of flowering shrubs seem to need a freeze. I would also like it to be relatively care-free, perhaps a twice-yearly trim, and of course regular watering.
tl;dr version: what flowering or decorative shrubbery can I grow in zone 10B with partial afternoon sun alternating with cloudy days in varying ratios?