Q. I have a sunny area and would like to grow a row of small decidious trees. Max about 15' tall what would you suggest?
You can stand underneath a 15 foot tree if the trunk is clear of branches for 6 feet. The size of the crown is best determined by prunning when the tree is young and monitored each year as the tree grows. I would start by removing branches from the lower 25% of the young tree. At 40 % when 10 feet tall, most likely the trunk will be clear up to 4 feet, and standing under it will be difficult. A tree that tops out at 20 or so feet would offer you the opportunity of walking under it at a younger age. Also, there are few trees that top out at 15 feet. 20 to 25 feet opens up a lot more choices. I would recommend mixing up the trees you plant. With these comments in mind, here are my recomendations.
Eastern Redbud, many new cultivars, but not much of a crown
Cornus kousa, Japanese dogwood, mottled bark
Magnolia X Soulangiana, a little bigger, but a superstar
Flowering crab apple
Japanese tree lilac
Cotinus coggygria, the smoke bush that can be grown as a shrub or a tree. The purple cultivar has colorful plumes.