Do not be alarmed if all of a sudden you can't think of anything but crocuses. Or, it may be, daffodils.

This happens to gardeners. The brain is fully infused with some plant or other, and for several days -- sometimes as long as six weeks -- the mind goes only in one gardening channel.

There is no point phoning some gardening friend to talk about daffodils if he happens to be in a dahlia mode. It will pass, and he'll phone to talk about daffodils, but by that time you will be in your peony period.

I shall name the primary obsessions of the gardener, which come in no predictable order. One year I did not even go through peonies, but went straight from irises to waterlilies.

Snowdrop (including crocus, scilla, trout lily and small spring bulbs in general), azalea, iris, peony, rose, day lily, lily, waterlily, dahlia, chrysanthemum and viburnum. These are the main clouds that descend on the gardener. I do not suffer from the chrysanthemum attack, but most gardeners do.

Of course, there are dozens or hundreds of other plants the gardener thinks of, but I have mentioned the ones most dangerous for the repose of garden design, since when these truly great seizures come the garden is promptly redesigned on paper and in the head.

In the daffodil phase, for example, all the chrysanthemums and dahlias come out and the irises are reduced by half. Two large trees are sawed down (in the gardener's mind) and with all this new space suddenly available, 217 new daffodils are ordered and planted.

But then, once the daffodils are through blooming in the real world of April, the gardener is not obsessed with them. The trees are restored, the irises not only come back but extend their realm through the bean and tomato patch.

And suddenly the peony fit occurs, in which the irises are reduced by a third, six rose bushes come out, the trees are sawed down again and all the dahlias go.

Rose fever sets in, the irises are reduced by half, two-thirds of the peonies are dug up, all chrysanthemums are abolished and all dahlias except five are abolished. This permits 22 new roses.

Waterlilies are excessively perilous. When they enter the head, two rose beds are eliminated, the irises (recently restored) are reduced to 75 good clumps, daffodils are shifted to bare-survival status under climbing roses, and for a good two weeks the plan is to construct a 23-by-31 foot pool. Think of all the new fish. No reason the golden orfe should not be tried again (they do not like small pools and die in the summer heat) and maybe some of the less common kinds of lotus, including our beautiful native yellow variety that is too vigorous, really, for small pools.

As these enthusiasms or paranoias or whatever you call them come and go, the gardener must remember that millions of people suffer them. The pain of losing a cherished plant in a bad winter is as nothing compared to the pain of realizing there are at least 23 roses that must somehow be added to the garden if life is to be more than one long agony.

And even that is nothing to the pain of seeing the New Garden (the redesign you have done carefully, to accommodate the 178 new irises) fall apart in the harsh daylight of reality. That surge of joy, when you saw you really could have all those irises, ebbs out again like life's blood as you finally acknowledge you can have them only if you cut down all the roses. Which you have done, naturally, in your new plan, and been so happy for a few days, until the iris phase passed and the rose phase set in. Then you are horrified to see, in the new plan, so much space given to irises that bloom only a few weeks.

The important thing, apart from realizing you are not going to die, is to change the garden slowly. When the rose fit is on, do not act immediately. Do not go out that very day and pitch out the hollies. Remember, the rose fit will pass, and you will soon want those hollies back.

It is the same with all the plants you have mentally sacrified on behalf of whatever flower has seized your full attention for the moment. Be especially wary of the waterlily. If, in your enthusiasm, you build your huge pool, it will be hard to undo it. You will be in trouble when the next iris fit descends because you cannot then reduce the size of the pool by half.

It is best to endure at least three or four years of succeeding enthusiasms, yielding to each in turn and recovering in time. After several years, you may indeed pitch out the chrysanthemums (or peonies or roses or whatnot) and allow your yearning for sweet peas or whatnot to flower, but it will not be a precipitous whim, it will be a real decision you can live with.

It is all very like Aeschylus and the grim tragedies of the House of Atreus. After so much suffering, a sort of peace, or an endurable substitute for it, comes to you. You no longer expect all the roses in rose season, all the irises in iris season.

You no longer say, "If I pitched out all the rest, I could have 78 camellias." No, child, you know you are going to keep the roses and tomatoes and day lilies. You become more adept at planting things on top of each other and cherishing survivors.

Peace comes to the gardener when at last he has all his flowers in reasonable and sane balance. The day after the undertaker comes.