Plant ID forum: Need help IDing a bush and how to prune it

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Northeastern Illinois (Zone 5b)
Nov 28, 2016 12:03 PM CST
A row of these bushes are along my driveway. They tend to overgrow quickly, about a month after I moved in this last June I had to cut them back because they were onto the driveway and scratching my car.

They seem to grow no taller than 3' or so but can spread out, I think the longer stems are rooting themselves where they get near the ground. When I trimmed them back to about 2' max this fall (hoping to rejuvenate them a bit and start next spring off more under control), just the slightest tug would pull them up from the ground, the roots were very shallow. A large amount of dead wood just came up by grabbing as well.

I'm wondering if whatever this bush is would benefit from being cut to the ground each year because of all of the dead wood I pulled out. Or if possibly they've been so neglected to have that large amount of dead wood. You can see from the pics that the entire center of of one of them seems nothing but dead wood. The others in the row are worse off with even more dead wood than just the center.

They're unfortunately not on my property or else my first choice would be to pull them up and plant something more manageable, like lime mound spireas. There's nothing attractive looking about these at all. Or possibly that just comes from neglect.

Edit: Forgot to add where, this is in the Chicago area.

Thumb of 2016-11-28/Murky/157cab

Thumb of 2016-11-28/Murky/6d042d

[Last edited by Murky - Nov 28, 2016 12:12 PM (+)]
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Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
Nov 28, 2016 12:24 PM CST
Welcome! My guess would be alpine currant, Ribes alpinum, which is often used as a hedge. It can indeed get straggly. If you cut it back, try and shape it to be wider at the base than at the top so that it doesn't splay out. Here are some pictures to compare with your plants:

Northeastern Illinois (Zone 5b)
Nov 28, 2016 12:35 PM CST
That does indeed appear to what the bushes are, and surprisingly, they can look very nice when cared for properly. I'll have to do more research about pruning them to try and get more even growth without the "dead zones" in the center from all the dead wood.

Thanks for the help.

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