Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont make up the Northeast. Cold winters and short growing seasons are factors with which gardeners in the Northeast contend. Ornamental shrubs provide color in the fall and winter as well as spring and summer, contributing a bit of life when the rest of the plants are done.
Red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia) is a member of the rosaceae family that is native to the Eastern United States and parts of Southern Canada as far north as USDA Hardiness Zone 4. The shrub will grow from 6 to 10 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide with thin, dark or medium green leaves that are a fuzzy gray-green on the bottom and 1-1/2 to 3-1/2 inches long. The foliage is at is best in the fall when the leaves turn a raspberry or crimson-red. The plant blooms in May with small, white flowers growing in clusters that give way to clusters of small, red berries that are a part of the diet for the local bird population. Plant red chokeberry in full sun for the most flowers and fruit and for the strongest color in the fall. The plant is adaptable to different types of soil from dry to wet.
Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) is a native of Japan, a member of the berberidaceae family and hardy as far north as USDA Hardiness Zone 4. The plant is a deciduous shrub that grows from 3 to 6 feet tall and about the same, or a little larger, in width. The oval-shaped leaves are bright green, appear in the early spring, turn orange, red or purple in the fall and grow up to 1-1/4 inches long. The small, yellow flowers appear in April and give way to bright red berries in the fall that stay on the shrub into the winter. Plant Japanese barberry in full sun or partial shade and in a moist, well-drained soil. This shrub makes a good hedge.
Redosier dogwood (Cornus sericea)is hardy as far north to at least USDA Hardiness Zone 3. The plant's native range extends from Newfoundland to Manitoba in Canada to the center of the country and as far west as Arizona and New Mexico. The shrub grows from 6 to 10 feet tall and about the same in width. The leaves are oval shaped, medium to dark green, 2 to 5 inches long and 1 to 2-1/2 inches wide. In the fall, the leaves become different shades of red-purple.
The small white flowers grow in flat-topped clusters, blooming from late May to early June. The white or blue fruit that takes over for the flowers appear in August and September. Plant redosier dogwood in full sun or partial shade and in a soil that is moist. The stems turn a bright red in the winter, bringing a splash of color to an otherwise colorless garden.