Amateur needs design tips for tiny area
I'm stymied as to how to redo this tiny area. It is 10' x 4'. The low round evergreen (left) will be removed and replaced by the dwarf Alberta spruce (pictured). At the porch/entrance end is where I will replace the low Japanese lantern; nothing grows there as it's subject to heavy rain overflow from gutters and some ice in winter.
This is Zone 5 along Lake Erie so that means cold, snowy, windy Winter; cool, wet Spring; and warm Summer and Autumn. The area faces North and receives only a couple of hours of sunlight in the morning; most is blocked by a large mugo pine.
An Asian-style look with a few plantings with mulch between is my preference so that it's appealing, calming, not fussy or overcrowded.
The dwarf rhododendron I took out never bloomed as I suspect it was sun-starved. A japonica didn't thrive as it was damaged by snow and ice, but a small mugo pine was okay.
The sidewalk edge is planted with tete a tete daffodills which will be supplemented with more and also with crocus. They're smiles after Winter!
Stumping me is how to achieve a pleasing flow from the corner where the dwarf Alberta spruce will be to the low Japanese lantern at the porch/entrance end. It also needs to be rather low maintenance as well as slow-growing.
Should I add a slightly smaller dwarf Alberta spruce around the corner from the relocated taller one? Followed in some pleasing height/color/texture arrangement of things like a bigger diameter mugo pine or a larger japonica that might withstand winter's insults, or a Tiarella Pink Skyrocket for a bit of color, and/or other slow-growing evergreen or shrub?
I have a couple of pinkish rocks that can be added to the arrangement, too. Something is saying three but not four plantings...an odd number seems to be wanting.
We're talking a "rank amateur" here who is delighted when anything put in the ground actually grows!
Your advice, design tips, ideas, plant suggestions will be welcomed and appreciated.