Please leave the leaves
The benefit to the garden soil is great. The "mess" is visible
only for a few weeks until plants grow through and cover the
leaves, which will decompose.
Yes, even the oak leaves that resist winter rot do decompose by
Yes, even the tiny plants do come up through leaves.
Where leaves do mat badly (often that's an indication of other
trouble such as poor drainage!) simply poke the mat to loosen it,
or tear it into pieces -- the plants will come
Below: Trillium, pink spears of Polygonatum species
(Solomon's seal), tiny spring beauty (Claytonia virginica)
and paddle-leaf, blue-tone Virginia bluebell foliage
(Mertensia virginica) all come through thick oak leaves in
the woods. No one rakes there yet the plants are happy and healthy.
In our gardens, trillum seedlings are most abundant where oak
leaves are thickest and provide a bit of extra protection from