I think my setup is conventional but there are a few tweaks. Maybe a pic of my setup will help.
The vacant side of the tank is reserved for an HM filter sponge, a small pump, and a heater.
I went with a submerged pump due to it being quieter than the air pump that drives the traditional airlift tube.
The bottom of the HM sponge will not work as a filter. A glass plate prevents water from passing through it. In fact, I may cut it out and leave a void so that there is not stagnant sponge material.
The glass plate serves to contain the sand and MTS. This will make for simple maintenance on the HM sponge. Otherwise, removing the sponge would result in sand and MTS sliding into its place.
There is a small leak through the silicone holding the glass in place. This was not intentional. On the plus side, I can see the water level during the dry start.
I will be attaching Christmas moss to the driftwood and submerging it in another aquarium. The wood will return to this tank when I flood it.
This pic is on day 3. I welcome comments on the setup and, especially, advice on the plants (as per my original post). https://photos.app.goo.gl/PH6uV3dq9zhCpcrAA