Presentation and balance reap rewards

Near perfect chrysanthemums.
Near perfect chrysanthemums.

Splashes of colour from summer flowers offer the instant ‘wow’ factor that show visitors anticipate.

Row upon row of vases filled with dahlias, chrysanthemums and gladioli do look rather spectacular at first glance, but judges have the unenviable task of separating the entries, looking for faults. Which is best?

Their guidance is shaped by the rules for a specific genus. These exist for chrysanthemums and a raft of other popular flowering plants.

For example, the RHS, in consultation with the National Dahlia Society, has divided cultivars into classes, the merits of each being listed.

When judging pompon dahlias, I’m looking for something perfectly globular with florets involute for their whole length. They should be evenly and symmetrically arranged throughout the bloom and dressed back fully to the stem. The bloom should be facing upwards on a straight, firm stem.

When annuals, biennials and herbaceous plants are staged in mixed vases, a general approach is followed. Condition and quality of flowers, foliage and stems is important. Colour, texture and arrangement are also meritorious. Judges smile when presentation, symmetry and balance are spot on.

Vegetables have a definite pecking order in the eyes of exhibitors, judges and the RHS. This is based on the difficulty in producing a ‘perfect dish’ or specimen.

Long beetroot and carrots, cauliflowers, celery, leeks, onions, parsnips, peas and potatoes top score on 20 points. This is good to know if you’re putting a collection together for show.

In all cases the condition, uniformity, size and colour are important.

The same applies to fruit judging.

If you have an embarrassment of grape bunches dangling from a greenhouse vine, why not make an entry at your local show?

Don’t touch individual fruits or you’ll leave a fingerprint on the bloom that covers them. Such a small imperfection might make the difference between first or second prize in the judges’ eyes.