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A pic of the area would really help.
Is the emerging growth limp or crispy? Crispy makes me think it has had wind damage over vine weevil grub root damage.
My neighbours garden is north facing (mine is south facing) and they get little sun late Oct- early Mar but come June/July there garden can get sun longer than me due to fencing etc.
Amelanchier is ideal for what you want.
Am a growing fan of Prunus cerasifera 'Nigra'. Black trunk and branches with red leaves and pink flowers.
They do not like over watering or as Dove has mentioned above, the atmosphere to be too dry. An east or north facing bathroom is best for them - not direct sun. They come from rainforest floors, where light is indirect.
I think Phormium look great next to decking. Available in greens, reds, yellows, pinks, blacks and everything in between. I have a dozen around my garden.
Podophyllum, Epimedium, Trillium, Rodgersia, Paris, Brunnera, Pachyphragma, Cyclamen, Helleborus, etc.Don't be afraid of shade
Most hedges should be 2 metres, which is 6.7 feet or there abouts. As per above they did the hard work for you as it will grow back quickly. if in good sun then it is possible for the new growth to be over 2 metres by autumn.
I have 5 broken spades trying to loosen and dig my soil. Just use a fork - not lost one yet, though have bent pronds from trying to lift stones.
Bark and chick poo pellets work a treat in opening up clay soil. I have clay loam and some parts of the garden are pure blue clay. Getting better everytime I fork in bark and pellets.