Ninebark prune or whack?

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Hello everyone!

I recently purchased a house (yay! It was brutal!) and am slowly working on landscaping (old owners only liked hedge trimmers for everything).

We have several ninebark shrubs in the back. One was so diseased I had to dig it out. The rest suffer from that white powder bacteria so I waited until now (in Wisconsin) to attempt to help them.

My problem is this: I am very new to gardening and trying to learn all I can. From what I can research, these bushes are not happy as they seem to be continually shaped but not pruned. I see dead canes in the mix and each one suffers from being pretty compact when the leaves grow in.

We love have a small privacy screen they provide but I am hoping to bring them back to full health. If that means cutting them to ground level, so be it.

Any advice on how to bring them back to their wonderful droopy limb shape? I hate to yank them all out, they seem to be well established adult plants.

I added pics from reference. Taken recently to show their shape and how previous owners did the minimum…
IMG_3665.jpeg
IMG_3666.jpeg
 
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Kate, I wasn't sure what you call ninebark was ?? I have checked online, and discovered that I call this plant Physocarpus. I stick with Latin labels as I worked in a nursery for many years propagating shrubs and climbers.
This is a wonderful plant with several different varieties to choose from, and NOW is the right time to prune them.
These plants benefit greatly from hard pruning from time to time, and that is how I would deal with these if they were mine. Cut the entire shrub down to about 6 inches (or even a bit less, and rake out any bits left behind. Don't worry, they will sprout up beautifully from the base then with lovely new growth.
If you have any gaps, for example where you removed one plant, I suggest looking for the variety ''Dart's Gold'' to replace it as it would make a stunning contrast with the red leaves you probably have already ??..... a wait and see job.
These are easy to grow from cuttings if you wait until later in the summer for the new growth to toughen up a bit.
I'd love to see a photo when your plants are all nicely in leaf :geek:
PS Nice sharp secateurs with disinfected blades are best for this job !!
 

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