THESE ARE the great days in which all gardeners are entitled to go mad: through May 25 (the iris trauma will have ended by then).

The viburnums are one of those plant families that everyone should grow. Depending on the particular viburnum species, some are outstanding in flower, some in fruit and some in fall coloration. Almost all have an air of security about them, you might say -- they are not forever apologizing for their shabby leaves or gawky branches or cruddy blooms.

My lot is 40 by 185 feet and is encumbered by a house and several outrageous forest trees which I have neither the heart nor the energy to take down. So I have little enough space.

And yet I have plants of the following viburnums, which I cite not as the best, necessarily, but to show I think so highly of them I give them space even in a smallish garden:

V. "Dawn," a garden form that blooms in the winter, if the winter is bloomable. It is a hybrid of what we used to call V. fragrans, now given some ridiculous new name. The hybrid originated at the Aberconway garden in Wales.

V. juddii, with small tennis balls of white heavily flushed pink, rather waxy, very sweet in smell, neat in habit (to perhaps seven feet) with good foliage till November, sometimes coloring well. It is very similar to V. carlesii, which is as beautiful but which is sometimes tricky to grow (though you may see superb healthy plants of it here).

V. dilatatum, notably mainly for masses of red fruit in fall, neat handsome foliage, big shrub to 10 feet or so.

V. opulus sterile, the common old snowball bush, with white tennis balls of flowers, which children have pulled off and thrown at each other for some centuries, or millenia perhaps. It has no scent but is very handsome. Because you see it everywhere, there is a snobbish aversion to it, which is silly. Often its leaves color bronze and orange and so forth in fall. It has no fruit. It is dandy hanging over a fence or wall with bearded irises below. They bloom together.

V. tomentosum plicatum "Mariesii," which blooms with the dogwoods or a few days after dogwoods start. It has horizontal branches strung with white flowers and the effect is flat horizontal layers of white. It sometimes fruits well; usually the leaves color well. It grows to perhaps 10 feet.

V. tomentosum plicatum sterile, the Japanese counterpart of the snowball bush, with deeply veined, almost pleated leaves and neat white tennis balls of flower, unscented and without fruit.The leaves usually do not color much in the fall. It too blooms with irises. It has a neat wellfed look to it.

V. setigera, from which the Chinese make tea when they go to one of those sacred mountains with flowers in April, not very showy but quite pleasant, and magnificent red fruit, extremely showy, coloring in August and holding on till hard frost. It likes to shoot up narrow to 10 or 12 feet, arching over a bit and thickening up greatly with a few seasons' growth. Like virtually all viburnums, the leaf buds are beautiful as they open.

V. wrightii, a rounded bush to seven feet, with clusters of rich crimson berries and wine-red leaves in fall.

Another April-blooming shrub I like is Kerria japonica, which has arching green stems up to six or eight feet, with canary-yellow single (five-petaled, not double) flowers the size of quarters or half-dollars all along their length. It abides shade far better than most flowering shrubs. I planted it where it will follow the somewhat clotted flamboyance of Kurume, Gable and Glenn Dale azaleas. Unfortunately, where I have it, it blooms right with the azaleas, adding a strong yellow which is fairly outrageous (to be plain) with the pinks and scarlets and whites. In the open garden, without the shelter of a wall, it will bloom with the early tall bearded irises, and looks better than with azaleas. There is a double form, lime pompons, the old Jew's mallow, and some prefer it. The single is better.

I cannot think what went wrong with my scientific disposition of tulip colors this year. As you know, even 10 or 20 white tulip bulbs, spaced a foot or two apart, make quite a show when other shrubs and herbs are in bloom.

Somehow I have wound up with maybe 20 tulips among the azaleas, blue starflowers (Brodiaea uniflora), the rich gentian-blue cynoglossums, the cream-yellow epimediums, the white trout lilies (Erythronium 'White Beauty"), the last of blue chionodoxas (the variety called gigantaea), the several viburnums, blue anemones, assorted daffodils, kerria etc. These tulips seem to run from red through orange, tawny pink, shell pink, cream yellow, canary yellow, violet and rose-magenta with white edges.

I planted them in great haste, since I was on jury duty at the time.But I remember I had some plan in mind.

The result is a bit deplorable. Not quite as wretched as it sounds. But almost. I seem to recall the tulips were supposed to be straw-yellow? As it is, I seem to have one of every color known to man.

Well. These things happen. You might say, if you were charitable, that the colors clash well. They vie strongly, at least.