I’ve never had much of a green thumb. If I can get something to live, I can usually keep it alive for years and years. If something dies, I know never to buy it again (although that doesn't always stop me). That philosophy has pretty much worked for outside stuff as well. When we moved into our house we lucked into some pretty amazing bushes, and some pretty hideous bushes. We promptly got rid of what we didn’t like, a yew hedge full of dog hair and a rose bush in the middle of a very tiny herb garden (we kept the herb garden, just not the messy roses). That Fall I set to work planting some bulbs (muscari, or grape hyacinths, are my favorite flowers because elves must live among them). Every other Fall or so, I prune the bushes that we kept: a gorgeous azalea, this white bush (below) that I think is a spirea, a massive forsythia, and an even bigger lilac.
Later, we bought some blueberry bushes to go where the yew had been. We were excited that first summer to have buckets full of black raspberries from the vines left by the previous owners. We took a chance the next year and moved some of the little suckers from one part of the yard to the other and they have also done very well. Basically, we try it with just a little bit and if it works, we keep at it. The same thing worked for the peonies that were fighting for space among the black raspberries. One year I moved a few to against our neighbor’s fence. They came up so I tried it again. I'll do it again this year to clean out that bed and I’ll have the entire length of the fence full of peonies within two years.
People think some of these things are hard to grow but that is not the case. It’s just all about what’s meant to be there. My advice for growing pretty stuff is to take a look around your neighborhood. What do you like? What’s growing in the most places? And better yet, what’s growing around the poorly maintained rental properties? Because if it can grow where no one is tending to it, then you can grow it too (just as long as you don’t pay too much attention to it). But don’t let that stop you from trying new things too. Last year I bought this crazy plant from Lowe’s because I thought it looked like an alien plant that would grow on Mars. It has yet to return (it was a perennial) but I’ll try it again.