One good place to see and compare trees is Bluebell Arboretum and Nursery in South Derbyshire.
This 3.6ha (9 acre) arboretum is home to a huge collection of labelled trees and shrubs, including particularly good ranges of Liquidambar, Quercus, Cornus, Acer, Metasequoia, Sequoiadendron.
'All the plants in our gardens have survived cold down to -20C in past winters, so anything on display can be thought of as tough and reliable,' says owner Robert Vernon.
'The gardens are relatively young, so people can see what trees will turn into in a reasonably short period of time. All the interesting plants are well labelled, and we have detailed information posters next to many of the more obscure or exciting plants.'
Most of the plants on display are available at the adjoining nursery, where staff can discuss and recommend suitable plants.
Robert Vernon's recommendations for a small garden:
Acer griseum (paperbark maple)
'A slow growing, hardy tree with lovely peeling bark once established, interesting summer foliage and great autumn colour. The ornamental bark makes established specimens breathtaking all year round. We have several nice ones in the garden, the largest of them (approx 20 ft x 12 ft) about 18 years old.'
Liquidambar styraciflua 'Slender Silhouette' (columnar sweet gum)
'This eye-catching and very narrow, upright selection of Liquidambar has a very limited spread. Left to its own devices it will grow to be tall and narrow, yet can be pruned to limit the size at the required height. Tough and hardy with interesting summer foliage and great autumn colour.' (Size: up to 3ft spread and 10-15ft tall after 10-15 years).
Amelanchier lamarckii 'Ballerina' (snowy mespilus)
'Not especially rare, but still a very good small branching tree for gardens with limited space. It is tough, hardy and has masses of spring flowers, followed in June by small fruits that are loved by birds.' (Size: after 10-15 years, up to 10-12ft tall, 8-10ft spread)
See small tree recommendations from Nymans