One of the most effective ways to reduce maintenance and improve appearance is cover soil with plants. Understory plants can out compete weeds and avoid need for mulch.
Here: Scented Fern, (Dennstaedtia punctilobula) under native Rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum)
My focus in recent years has been introduction of more natives including native ferns (Christmas Fern, Scented Fern, Lady Fern), Wood Asters, Allegheny Spurge, Solomon Seal. In many cases, natives will choose their preferred places.
Best care for your understory is to leave the fall leaves and pretty much any other plant material on the ground. Blowing will harm the understory.