When thinking outside of the pool you should really be thinking no vegetation, especially no grass.
Nut grass and Bermuda grass are the worst killers of above ground pool liners. These types of grasses will grow up and through the liner. Proper treatment under the pool is the first step. Keeping the grass away from the outside of the pool is the second. Many types of grass grow off in all directions on runners. Keeping the grass away from the pool prevents grass from growing into the pool area and up through the liner.
The proper treatment of the outside of an above ground pool would be to treat the ground with a weed and grass killer, lay a sheet of black plastic and cover with decorative rock. The plastic is very important. Water will always be splashing out of the pool causing the ground around the pool to stay damp. This damp ground makes a great breeding ground for grass and weeds. Using plastic will make your landscaping efforts last a lifetime with no maintenance. Without the plastic will, in most cases, require the area to be sprayed with weed killer on a regular basis, weekly in some yards.
Pool decking is another great landscaping option. When building a deck, planter boxes can be built in. They are an attractive way to add greenery around the pool without the roots growing under the liner and causing damage. Artificial plants are another way to add color to a pool area.
I'm a pool builder, not a landscape designer, but I do know beautiful landscape options are available for around your pool, without the use of in the ground plants. Landscape Design Advice is an excellent recourse for all types of landscape ideas. The Patio Designs - Tips For Creative Patios is a good place to start when looking for pool deck ideas.