Yes Kate, you do have to go out and pull the leaves off your flowers.
In Wisconsin it is a bit tricky to find the right time to do this. The leaves and stems of old perennials provide a bit of insulation to the plants, but that insulation can be smothering for those early season bulbs that are trying to grow and bloom.
I always try to get the old leaves and garden debris (and garbage) out of the beds in the first weeks of March, if there is no snow on the ground, because my garden records indicate that the first snowdrop blooms somewhere between March 10-20. If those are not uncovered, they will be smothered.
Tougher things like tulips and daffodils usually will pierce right through garden debris, but I like to get leaves off of them while it is still easy.
I don’t use a garden fork, just my hands, so that I snap off as few buds as possible.
Don’t get rid of the debris, either– if you have room, dig a hole in a new bed and put the leaves, etc. in and cover it with dirt- you will have beautiful rich soil from this. You could also put it in your composter, but this is the time of year that I empty my composter out completely and add all that material plus the garden debris to my currently empty dahlia bed. It looks terrible for awhile, but it will look better eventually, and the dahlias appreciate it.
This is also the time to prune those crossing branches that you didn’t notice before (when you pruned in late winter). I force the branches in the house– I’ve had some nice crabapples and magnolias already, and the dogwoods in the front containers are very cheerful.
Unlike most gardening, which I will put off until I have to do something– planting bulbs in the fall and uncovering beds in the spring are two garden tasks that really should be done on schedule. The advantage of uncovering the beds is that you get to be outside after being cooped up in the house all winter… thank goodness!