AOS News – January 2015


AOS Judging Part Two

In November, Napa Valley Orchid Society arranged for AOS judges to come to their regular meeting to perform a judging. Napa Valley encouraged their members and those from other societies to submit plants for judging. SCOS member Angelique Fry decided to attend for the education. During the event, three plants were considered worthy of judging. Of the three, two had never been previously judged as a species and were being judged for botanical recognition. This is an award to a “previously un-awarded species or natural hybrid deemed worthy of recognition because of rarity, novelty and educational value.” If these plants were deemed worthy of the award, they would be awarded a “provisional award”. Photos and data would be sent to AOS headquarters for expert analysis to determine if the plants were indeed what their owners claimed them to be. Once confirmed, the Certificate of Botanical Recognition (CBR) would be made and the owner could then claim status for having produced such a fine plant. The owner pays a $36 filing fee and is then able to put evidence of the award on the label of their plant.

The third plant received an Award of Merit (AM). Not only does this give the owner swank and bragging rights, but a commercial owner might be excited to receive this award because now she/he can clone the plant and buyers will know it has received an AM from the AOS. An AM award signifies the plant is an excellent example of the species and will likely command a higher price at market. The owner has the satisfaction of knowing they are advancing the standard for that particular plant.

Other awards exist. A Judges Commendation (JC) is awarded to plants or flowers which in the opinion of the judges have some notable quality which they are unable to score. An Award of Distinction (AD) is awarded to a cross representing a worthy new direction in breeding. A Certificate of Horticultural Merit (CHM) is awarded based on plant characteristics (form and color), robustness (size, natural vigor), condition (culture), floriferousness and other characteristics such as aesthetic appeal.

A Certificate of Cultural Merit (CCM) or Certificate of Cultural Excellence (CCE) is awarded for the size and condition of the plant, the floriferousness and condition of bloom. An Award of Quality (AQ) is awarded once to a cross, exhibited by a single individual as a group of a raised species or hybrid when the result is sufficient improvement over the former type. The AOS Show Trophy is given after a vote of the judges for the most outstanding exhibit of the show and is based on quality of flowers, variety and labeling. There are other awards for Best Educational Exhibit, Plants Arranged for Effect and Orchid Arrangement.

The American Orchid Society’s judging system is one of the most highly respected horticultural award systems in the world. At nationwide monthly judging and worldwide sanctioned shows, highly trained AOS judges evaluate and recognize new and superior forms of orchid species, improved forms of orchid hybrids and plants exhibiting superior culture. Judges are dedicated volunteers who serve the membership and the orchid-growing public through participation in the Society’s judging system. Each judge has made a sincere, long-term commitment, and gives much of their personal time and resources. AOS Judges are not compensated for their services or travel to various judging events.

AOS’s judging system is comprised of 35 Centers throughout the United States and Canada. These Centers provide opportunities to have plants judged on specified monthly dates.The Centers also provide judging service to AOS-sanctioned shows here and abroad. Center activities are open to visitors who wish to see the judging process in operation or bring their plants to be evaluated. Meeting dates, times, places and contact information are published each month in Orchids magazine as well as on our Events listing. All orchid plants or cut flowers submitted at a monthly judging session are candidates for an award. Plants should be entered in the most presentable condition possible. Entries may be entered by the owner in person or by someone else on his/her behalf. The exhibitor completes a single sheet entry form for each plant entered for judging. After an entry number is assigned and annotated on the form by the Judging Center Clerk, the exhibitor places the entry form with the plant on the display table.

So, are you ready to be a judge yourself? If an individual has a desire to be an orchid judge and is willing to make this commitment, he/she makes application to the nearest AOS judging center and, if accepted, begins rigorous training for three to five years as a student judge. Upon successfully completing student instruction, the candidate becomes a certified judge, and is granted the authority to judge at any AOS-sanctioned event. However, the status is probationary, and training continues for another three-to-five years before full accreditation is attained. A judge’s education must continue through seminars and workshops in order to keep up with continuing taxonomic developments and orchid trends.

It could take 10 years to become an accredited judge! After that much training and experience, I’d say they are neither blind nor are their conclusions based on taste. Something as specific as mm length of a flower can make a difference to a judge. They operate from a book of written standards and their observations are completely objective. In fact, if they know who an entry belongs to, they are required to remove themselves from the judging to eliminate bias.

At the Napa judging, SCOS member Cynthia Battershall submitted two plants. She knew they weren’t in their best form, but she wanted to see what the judges thought of their form, color and uniqueness. Cynthia was able to get judge feedback during the initial rejection process that increased her knowledge about her plants.

Angelique left Napa feeling like she’d enjoyed a really cool experience and received an invaluable education. She believes observing a judging or entering your own plants will help you make better buying decisions. If you are going to buy that beautiful plant, but know it hasn’t received an award; buy it anyway, but enjoy it for its beauty and the way it makes you feel while recognizing it may not be a prime example of its species.

So, are you ready to sling some mud at the wall? Check out which local societies have monthly judging and bring one of your favorite plants to their next judging. Judging and is open to anyone and there is no cost to enter. See what the judges think while enjoying a great learning experience and having great fun!

This Cymbidium erythraeum “Lady of China’ was entered for AOS Judging at the November 14, 2014 Napa Valley Orchid Society meeting by Karen Olson. It received an HCC of 78 points.

Description: Fifty-two flowers and two buds on five upright inflorescences; sepals and petals olive green, red-brown stripes and spots; lip white, basally striped red-brown; side lobes red-brown striped; substance firm; texture matte.

(Remember: All awards are considered provisional until published in the AQ. Pictures are not the award slides. Descriptions subject to revision in final publication. Copyright © California Sierra Nevada Judging Center 2014.)

The California Sierra-Nevada web page has been updated with awards through December, 2014. Find at Note, the California Sierra-Nevada Judging Center awarded three orchids in December. Check out this website to see their pictures and descriptions.

AOS News – December 2014

AOS JUDGING – What is all the fuss about?
Part 1 of 2 (Part 2 in the January newsletter).

I’ve seen plants lined up on a table at our Sonoma County Orchid Society (SCOS) Spring Show and know an American Orchid Society (AOS) judging has occurred, but I don’t really get it. What is an Award of Merit or other some such award, and why does one plant get it, but the other plant down the row, which to my uneducated eye is much prettier, doesn’t get any kind of award at all! Are the judges’ blind or do they just possess poor taste?!?!

As usual, when I have these kinds of questions I find myself snooping about, looking for answers. Here’s what I found out.

Anyone who has ever seen dogs or cows judged, or entered something they made themselves in a local fair has experienced the judging process. It is no different for orchids. The judging process is done to evaluate new and superior forms of orchid species and hybrids and recognize those people who have exhibited superior culture. So I guess that means only experienced or commercial growers would ever want to enter or attend a judging contest, right? Not so.

As a hobbyist, you may feel you know nothing compared to the brains running the show. Here’s one place judging can benefit and educate you. Just like the quilt that took you a year to make in your basement and entered in last year’s fair, your orchid might look pretty great to you, but you are just a beginner. So learn something about it from an expert for free by entering it in a judging!

A few weeks ago SCOS member Angelique Fry decided she wanted to observe an AOS orchid judging event. Angelique heard the Napa Valley Orchid Society had arranged for AOS judges to come to their regular meeting to perform a judging. Napa Valley was encouraging their members and those from other societies to submit plants. It cost nothing to enter and only required some minor paperwork.

I asked Angelique to share her experience with me. She said two panels of judges had come to judge the plants at the request of the Society. Each panel consisted of two experienced, accredited judges and a probationary judge. One student judge acted as clerk. Another accredited judge ran the projector, which had access to a database (AQplus, which can be purchased by individuals via the AOS website) which contains the best examples of previously judged plants for comparison. The accredited judges were fun, personable, friendly and educational. The probationary judges tried to stay out of trouble.

People from Napa and other societies brought about 12 plants to be judged. They filled out their paperwork then sat back to see what the judges would say about their plants. The judges reviewed all the entries and then REJECTED ALL BUT THREE for judging. What?!?!?

Rejection can happen for numerous reasons, some of them quite minor. The goal is to find the best example of a plant that represents the gold standard. If a plant brought in for judging is too immature, has flowers not yet open, has flowers that have been open too long, hasn’t been staked correctly, has bug damage or any other problem items, the judges don’t judge the plant. They already know the one in the database is a better example at that time and they don’t want to judge a plant unfairly if it’s not at its peak. Once a plant is judged, it can’t be judged again until something new happens, such as a new spray of flowers or the plant gets more mature. By disqualifying the plant before it is judged, the plant can leave the event without a black mark on its reputation, and can be judged another day when the timing is right.

Stay tuned for the continuation of the judging process, which will appear in the January Newsletter