But I've found that if I just leave them in the beds, they take too long to break down completely, and smother my beloved early spring bulbs. Later perennials and big bulbs do okay pushing through them, but the snowdrops, scilla, chionodoxa and such get smothered. So my first outdoor gardening task is raking away the leaves, and clipping down any dried out perennials that were left for winter interest.
It's easy work, and joyous -- it feels so good, pulling away brown bits to reveal bits of springing green. The periwinkle vines are spreading happily. The hellebores are putting up strong new shoots, and clipping away their old leaves gives them a fresh sprightly appearance for March; soon, they'll be blooming, the first of the perennials. And bulbs are coming up all over the yard -- I'm not sure what those are, next to the hellebores, as they're newly planted last fall, and most of my plant tags seem to wander off over the winter, but I think they might be allium bulgaricum; we'll see.
For all my planning, and I do plan somewhat compulsively, there's always delight in the garden's surprises too. Let us turn over last winter's withered remains, and see what has been growing there, sheltered and secret. Something wonderful, I suspect!