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Orchids: Evaluating an orchid

Credit: Arthur E. Chadwick

Orchids such as this cattleya Love Triangle may be exhibited at orchid judging centers, where some receive awards.


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Q: I have an orchid that was raised from seed and looks spectacular. What is involved in getting American Orchid Society judges to evaluate it? — Tom S.

A: In 1947, the American Orchid Society created a set of rules for evaluating orchids, and recognizing new and improved forms. Today, there are 33 judging locations throughout the United States that meet monthly and are available to anyone who wishes to have their orchid judged. The closest centers are in Washington, Greensboro, N.C., Philadelphia and Atlanta. For specific dates and times, see www.aos.org.

Observing an orchid judging is much like watching a chess match: The spectators' knowledge directly relates to how interesting the event is. Imagine a group of horticultural experts discussing a plant in very detailed terms. One person is measuring the petals while another is determining the hue. A third person is researching the plant's ancestry going back many generations.

The credentials of an orchid judge are impressive. A minimum of seven years training is required. Judges must pass a color-screening test, have a thorough knowledge of common species and hybrids as well as a general knowledge of lesser-known species and hybrids, not to mention maintain a high level of integrity.

Submitting a plant is relatively easy. The plant should be quite mature — not blooming for the first time — so that the full potential can be seen. The flowers should be fresh, without a trace of insects or disease. The complete botanical name should be included, but to minimize the chance of bias, the grower's name should not be used.

Each judge scores the plant on a scale of 0 to 100. Form is worth 30 points, color 30 points, and size/substance/floriferousness 40 points. The chairman takes an average of the scores. Plants that receive 75 points or more get an award. The exhibitor of the orchid must then provide a variety name that will go down in the annals of orchid history.

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