Many gardeners I know plant lots of annuals, planting out pots like they are writing symphonies, and have beds of perennials and hosta, grasses and natives, but when it come to a natural framework of trees and shrubs, they never get out of the box. I have had the misfortune (or fortune?) of living on entirely too flat of lots with no exisitng trees to mention.
My last home had a couple large black walnuts. Walnuts not being without their own private curse in the form of jugleone, making the thought of having my own garden-grown tomatoes simply a dream. There was also the yew that had grown to seemingly architectural importance as an 8' tall perfectly sheared ball.
Currently, I have a white pine of monumental proportions compared to my home. I feel like a gnome camped in my tiny pink house under this pine where the grass will not grow. Don't get me wrong. I have come to love my pine and will defend it, fertilize it, and water it through drought and heat.
But to bring the house into scale and screen my lot, there have been nothing like shrubs. They grow fast, offer multiple seasons of interest, can be deer resistant, if the need be.
Here is my list of the ones I think are the best to grow in the Upper Midwest to Zone 4.
Ninebark 'Dart's Gold'
Syringa 'Beauty of Moscow'
Syringa 'Miss Canada'
Syringa prestonia 'Donald Wyman'
Dappled Willow 'Hakuro Nishiki'
Red Twigged Variegated Dogwood
Dogwood 'Silver and Gold'
Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'
Hydrangea tardivas 'Unique', 'Limelight', 'Pink Diamond', 'Pee Gee', 'Quickfire' (Can you tell this species has a lot to offer the typical homeowner?)