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I agree. I had 3 that I cut right back. They did regrow from the base but only to die, one the following year and two in the next year. They only made spindly, floppy growth and wouldn't have been very attractive if they had survived.
It may be early for leaves but I'd expect flowers unless it's a very young specimen that hasn't started flowering yet.
I don't think the bark scraping tells much initially, only when it's been dead for a while
They respond well to an air rifle pellet
Snip it back all over but keep it narrower at the top so the bottom isn't shaded
I do OL
They do get about bit Birdy
Probably some sort of fungus. Fungi spores are everywhere and most are either harmless or beneficial
I'd say Spanish bluebells for the bulbs
Possibly Linaria purpurea for the other but less confident on that
This Sauvignon b is very nice. I've forgotten what we're talking about