Answer: Sometimes it is helpful to examine natural areas nearby and imitate them in terms of plant selection and placement -- while also adding "garden" features such as a convenient path, a comfy bench, or a birdbath to enhance the setting. Generally, you will probably find that planting in masses or drifts is easiest to maintain over time and also encourages the plants to naturalize so they grow pretty much on their own.
In this case, a shaded woodland might include native shade tolerant plants along with dicentra, hosta and ferns selected for their long term foliage interest. In a sunny area you might look to rugosa roses and perennials with low maintenance requirements such as Achillea, Ajuga, Columbine, Echinacea purpurea, garden Phlox, Daylilies (Hemerocallis) and Sedums and allow them to naturalize along with biennials such as foxglove, hollyhock, lupine and seed poppies.
You may want ot begin by providing some evergreens for structure, possibly junipers, arborvitae, spruce or pines. Many deciduous native shrubs may also be suitable. Consider Clethra alnifolia, the shrub dogwoods (such as Cornus alba, etc), Vaccinium, Aronia arbutifolia, Fothergilla, Ilex verticillata, Hydrangia arborescens, and Viburnum trilobum for example. (The clethra and hydrangea would blooms during the summer.)
One last thought is to find out before you plant if deer are a problem -- if so, you may need to fence them out. Good luck with your planting project!
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