Deciding on a Tree

We live in a development and when the house was built 3 years ago, there were two trees planted in the front yard.  No one told us what they were.  The first one died and was replaced by the developer with what we (think) is a Red Maple.  A very sickly, sad Red Maple.  The other tree choose to hang on until year two, when the developer no longer replaces trees free of cost.  We think it was a Linden Tree.

I'm choosing to look at the replacement of the Linden as an opportunity.  To get exactly what I want.  I DON'T want a 70 foot tall Maple that will shade my entire front yard and drop tons of leaves each fall.

So I've been doing lots of research into possible trees.  My requirements are:

1.  Hardy in Zone 4 (we're technically Zone 5, but it's MN, so I'm not taking chances.  The front yard is pretty unprotected from the wind and frost).

2.  Likes mostly sunny yards.

3.  A height of 15 feet to 25 feet.  Larger than a bush, but won't cast shade on my flower garden.

4.  Tolerates clay/wet soil.  Our yard is solid clay.  Probably a factor in the Linden's death.

5.  Pretty.  Something with interest, preferably some type of flowering going on during the year.

My first choice was an Ornamental Pear.  We had one in our backyard in MA and it was glorious with white blooms for 2 weeks each Spring.  Plus, it was a low leaf-dropper in the fall.  BUT in doing some research, I'm not sure how it does in clay.  And some people are very anti-Ornamental Pear because it's not native to the U.S.  You wouldn't believe how angry some online posts are about it.  Yikes.

I heard good things about the River Maple Tree (aka Silver Maple).  It's beautiful and tolerates clay, but good lord, it can get to 80' tall.  Can you imagine the leaves?  Bye, Felicia.

Another tree that tolerates wet clay well is the River Birch (I'm noticing that any tree with 'River' in the title is a safe bet).  There are a ton of these planted in our town and they have pretty white buds right now.  But I would have to find out if there are dwarf versions, since my research shows some can grow to 40'-70'.  

How about a Magnolia?  The Leonard Messel Magnolia above is beautiful, but it's not fond of wet feet and hard frosts.

royal star magnolia 2.jpg

The Royal Star Magnolia is a much better fit.  Grows to 15' tall, likes sun, good in clay/wet soil, fast grower, Zone 4, and HUBBA HUBBA it's beautiful.

The Gray Dogwood also has a lot going for it.  15' height, likes sun or shade, wet or dry, MN Native (always a plus!), and attracts birds.  But I'm seeing a lot of pictures where it gets a little 'shrubby'.  So I'd have to learn how to prune a tree.  

The last contender is the Ivory Silk Lilac.  It grows to 20-25', likes sun, and tolerates clay.  I have a love for lilacs and am really leaning toward this.  Here's another picture:

It just takes my breath away.  I might do research to make sure about the clay soil.

To sum it up, the Lilac is my first choice.  With the Royal Star Magnolia a close second.  I guess third would be the River Birch, but it doesn't excite me.  It feels like a 'safe choice'.  Do I want to go safe or go BIG?!?!