Landscaping a small city yard should be an exercise in restraint: less is more. Due to the small size of most urban lots, keep your landscaping to an absolute minimum for the biggest impact. One landscape focal point is much better than a half-dozen competing ones.
Small Lawn Specimen Tree
In a small city lot, there's usually only enough room for a single tree. Take advantage of this and plant a stunning specimen. Japanese maple trees have fine, lacy leaves in an unusual maroon color and turn brilliant red in autumn. Flowering crab apples produce showy blossoms in spring and charming miniature apples in late summer to early fall. Some varieties keep the apples on the tree all winter, providing additional interest during this barren time of year.
Landscape your city yard by using window boxes, hanging planters and large ground level containers. The advantage of this is the plant materials can be changed from year to year, keeping your urban landscape fresh and new. Plants grown in containers need daily attention; during the heat of summer some will need watering daily.
Small Garden Fountains
Install a portable garden fountain near the front entrance of your home. This is quite easy to do yourself, particularly due to the wide availability of portable self-contained fountain pumps that only need to be inserted into a watertight container, which is then filled with water. The pump recirculates the water, removing the need for expensive plumbing. An added benefit is the sound of trickling water will somewhat mitigate the city traffic noise.