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Hopefully this is a proper area to post this. The description gets cut off.
So there are some Burford Holly that were transplanted and basically died off from what I know. One of the transplants is doing quite well. 2 are kinda sprouting from the bottom and 1 might be dead, dead. About 2 months ago I gave them a trimming up. Most of the small branches were very brittle. I didn't check every one this time, but when I scratched some bark off with my nail, there was no green on the one I checked. Should I check down lower and is this a solid way to check if it's alive?

How should I go about pruning these down? I hear about the 1/3rd rule but what if more than that is dead? Should I make it fairly level? Should the prune cuts be level or angle? Should I find green bark and prune there? I'm aware it's not the best time to prune, but we were going to do it. I've never tried to prune anything this far back unless I was trying to kill it.

Old Photo when I originally trimmed them. Dead and hollow... Yes, Lefty was left taller.

Thanks,
Higgins909
Plant Window Road surface Grass Asphalt
 

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If you can not give them more time.
I would just pull them out.
Pulling up on them will tell you if there is any new root growth.
I'm thinking cutting will only stress them more.
I'm in Ohio. We dealing with drought & temps in the 90s feels like 100 .
 

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Looking at the cambium is what I would have done too. No green down low I suspect they’re gone. American Beauty Berry dies back in my area each winter (about a foot of tips) but I prune the dead off and the plant revives.
There’s an addage that fits, but some of yours look like they’ve met the big sleep.
Regarding transplants:
The first year-sleeps.
The second year-creeps.
The third year-leaps
 

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When you replace them use woodchips or other mulch. White Stones will not provide any organic matter to the soil and heat up the soil. Not sure why only have of them died.
 
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