What's wrong with my holly?

I have three holly bushes that were there when I bought the house 13 years ago. Now that I think about it, they haven't grown much in all that time; hmm.
Last year they started looking sickly. I cut off all the dead stuff and hoped for the best. Two seem to be recovering, but one died. When I pulled it out today it had no roots; it pulled out with no resistance! The bush is about 2' high, but the roots are a ball about the size of a softball. That can't be right.
So, any idea what is afflicting my hollys? I have a few azaleas and rhododendrons in the area, and they are not exactly prospering. Maybe the soil is wrong? It is a moderately sunny area. What to do?
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Not enough info, perhaps a sample brought to your county cooperative extension center?
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A google search with the words "rotted root system holly" turned up lots of links. This one was interesting: http://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheets/HGIC2055.htm
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Do you think I could get my wife to back off on the mulching?!
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Of course. Tell her that every time she adds mulch to plants that suffer from too much moisture, you're allowed to take $100 out of the bank to spend in any way you like. If she pretends to forget the agreement (passive aggressive, in other words), it jumps to $500, then $1000. That should act like a bucket of crushed ice down her blouse.
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