Are my Potentilla fruticosa 'Abbotswood' shrubs dead?
This is my second year now struggling to reclaim my landscaping from sheer neglect. I moved into a house with a lot of beds and different plants that I couldn't even identify. Since I had no idea what to do with any of it, or what most of it was - I just left it. We had our babies, moved to China for year, and now that the house looks all but abandoned, I've decided to try to play with it a bit. Mostly I decided to streamline, remove, and prune until I had something more manageable for a newbie without a ton of time to devote. This seemed the best way to start - what I had was just overwhelming, and overgrown.
Last year I dug up all my lilly bulbs and transplanted them to only three locations for ease and a more streamlined look. It seems to have gone well - they all bloomed this year. I also bought 3 white flowering, sun and heat tolerant shrubs for the bed around the light post and planted them according to the directions on the little white plastic tag. These are my problems. They seemed to do well enough, but then got a little brownish towards the end of the season. Now I have just the brown stems and they don't look so good. No green leaves, and no new growth. How do I know if they are dead or just dormant? I can't imagine what happened to them. I know I have clay soil - I'm in a SW suburb of Cleveland - maybe 20 miles from the lake. The bed gets full sun pretty much all day (when we have sun - it's Cleveland). We rototilled the bed before planting and mixed it with some bagged soil. I put in shrub soil, shrub fertilizer, and covered with sweet peat compost/mulch. My only guess on why all three would die so completely (if they are dead) is that my husband uses that herbicide foam to kill grass and weeds in the bed. We're real careful, and don't get it on the plants as far as I know. I imagine there could have been some slight over spray that went unnoticed - but I doubt he would've hit all three enough to kill the entire plant. Normally I can tell if he got something a little bit because that branch goes dead, but I've never lost one, let alone several plants. Maybe the plants are just dormant - but since this is my first full season with them, I'm not really sure. Any ideas? I don't know if I should dig them up and try again - or wait awhile. If I wait too long I'm afraid I'll plant them during the hottest season and they'll struggle to establish. I think I planted them around August or September last year.
Thanks for any help anyone has to offer.