Whether your winter mulch was straw, pine needles, or loose oak leaves, from here the same rules apply, carefully begin by removing it, watching for any signs of new growth, new shoots, or swollen buds. This is where your gardens will begin talking to you.
Any sign of new growth will reinforce the fact that your perennial beds are ready to get going. Your early spring bulbs like your assorted crocus, your white snow drops, and even your blue scillia, should all be up and blooming, so treat them with care. Your assorted daffodils and early tulips at this stage should have their leaves well up, with their swelling buds at the ready. Don't worry if you see a few yellow leaves, a few days in the sun and all that will change for the better.
Your violets and other members of the viola family such as those pansies of yours that reseeded last fall, should also be up, But, and this is where the listening is a must. The violets should be an inch or so in height, your pansies will be greater than that with good leaf color, if they are not, cover them back over and give them another week or two.
Though not true perennials, but early spring biennials such as your blue flowering Forget Me Nots, Myosotis, as well as your perennial lungworts, treasured Pulminarias with their mix of soft pink and blue flowers on the same stems at the same time will also be showing signs of new growth, time to uncover these treasures, too. The taller perennials are starting, you should be able to find your asters and your Bee balms, time to carefully get them uncovered, cutting off any of last season’s old stems.
Daylilies, and your various irises, the hardiest of souls should all be trying to push their heads up through the soil. Even if they get snowed on at this stage, don't worry these hardy souls can take it, simply clear away any old stems and foliage from last season, careful not to break any stems as you go. Cultivars like Stella De Oro are very early flowering members of this large family, so don't be surprised to see their leaves up further than your other varieties. They like to get off to a quick start, stopping at nothing. If you left the mulch on just a wee bit too long and their leaves have yellowed, again don't worry, the sun will take care of that quickly.
Off to one corner, you've uncovered your Oriental Poppies, who should be well up, maybe even six or eight inches. These hardy souls love to get off to an early start so clean everything away from them so as to get ready for those spectacular June blooms.
If you talked to your garden last fall and managed to find some hardy mums with the next seasons shoots, go carefully, if in doubt give them a little more time, the mulch will keep them protected for just a little bit longer.
Listen to your early rising Cranes Bill, they tend to be somewhat evergreen so a little more time here won't hurt either. Listen to your Rudbeckias, your Black Eyed Susans, you should be able to see the new foliage well underway, time to uncover these gems as well, if not give them a wee bit more time as well.
Look where you planted your end of the season perennials in search of Sedum Spectabilis, your autumn flowering Sedums, these very hardy souls should be well up, time too completely uncover these hardy gifts, cutting off any of last season's stems that may still exist.
So you can see that with the crazy weather we're having, many of your garden treasures are eager to get going, listen to what they're telling you as you decide what to do next. Don't worry if you make a mistake, most of our perennials are very forgiving to just about everything except allowing the winter mulch to hold them back. Don't worry too much about feeding at this stage, it's a little bit early. For now visit your gardens daily as you wait and listen for surprises, you'll look forward to the changes each day brings. Enjoy.