I have a small front yard (5 feet wide) in Toronto, sun in the morning. I would like to plant a shrub or small tree that doesn’t take over the whole space but can be a point of interest and add a bit of height. I have spring bulbs, chives, Irises, hostas, aquilegia. I like colour so was thinking maybe Japanese maple, maybe a type of dogwood that doesn’t grow to big, other suggestions? I don’t want something that takes too much work. Soil is pretty loose -not clay. Appreciate your advice.
Japanese maples are lovely, and would more than satisfy your desire for colour. Some cultivars remain small, whereas some (the popular ‘Bloodgood’ for example) can grow quite large. It is worth looking closely at the mature size of any that interest you when you are at the nursery.
In terms of dogwoods, you might like some of the Cornus sanguinea varieties such as ‘Midwinter Fire’ or ‘Winter Beauty’ that feature bright orange-yellow stems and grow to a height of approximately 5 feet (with a similar spread).
One of the popular tree form hydrangeas might also appeal to you, for example Hydrangea paniculata “Limelight” with its mature height of approximately 6 feet, and a similar spread.
Many of our local major nurseries have good plant search features with photographs and mature dimensions which will help to give you a sense of what is available in the size that you require. Look for dwarf varieties of trees that appeal to you. Here is a link to the Toronto Master Gardeners’ guide to ornamental shrubs for various light conditions, also a source of inspiration.