A great way to grow plants in what might otherwise be seen as an inhospitable space is to visit nearby swampy areas in the wild. See what is growing naturally in such areas. If you see something that you can live with, check for its availability at a local establishment that specializes in native plants.
Below are listed several plants known to grow near swampy areas. Listed first are trees, then shrubs, then perennials. This way, you will have a whole range of plant sizes from which to choose. Do note, however, that the perennial, Joe-Pye weed is actually taller than many shrubs.
Plant Choices for Swampy Areas: Trees
The swamp tupelo is the best choice here if what you are looking for is something different, a plant that probably no one else in the neighborhood will have. As its name suggests, this is one plant known to grow in swampy areas. It will tolerate some flooding, even though it does not want to be in water year-round. This tree is native to the eastern U.S. Besides its tolerance for swampy ground, its shiny, red autumn leaves may be its best feature. In fact, it is one of the most colorful trees in fall. Plant this tree in a spot with full sun to partial shade. This is one of those plants that want an acidic soil.
You cannot go wrong with either pussy willows or winterberry if you enjoy crafts. Who doesn't like to pick pussy willows in late winter or early spring, bring them indoors, and display them in a vase to dispel cabin fever? If your craft interests are more serious, sprigs of winterberry are excellent for decorating a kissing ball for the holidays.
Northern blue flag may be the prettiest of the bunch. It is, after all, a type of iris, and the irises are among the world's most beautiful flowers. Mentioning "flag" to a gardening friend may provoke the reaction that this may be an invasive plant, but do not be scared off: It is the yellow flag (Iris pseudacorus) that is invasive in North America, not the blue kind.