Judges win many prizes at society shows, which is no surprise considering that they were originally chosen (at least five years previously) for training as judges on the basis of their orchid knowledge and cultural skills. Unfortunately a few society members attribute judges’ successes to the wrongly perceived belief that judges are able to judge their own plants. This is not true, and strict procedures are enforced to ensure that judges cannot influence the results of any show classes in which they exhibit.

Ideally, judges should not judge at shows in which they exhibit. But consider how impractical this would be. Think of the giant OSCOV show held at Collectors’ Corner each August and what would happen if thirty or more major exhibitors were obliged to withdraw because they help judge the show. Judges also make a significant contribution to the orchids displayed at many society shows. While it would be preferable for them to then judge elsewhere, this is usually not possible – there is just not the time to build a display at one’s home society and then travel to another show for judging (not surprisingly, societies plan their show dates so that there is no competing show nearby). And despite the fact that OSCOV now has 44 fully accredited judges, we still have difficulty in providing enough judges on those weekends in spring when up to seven societies have been known to hold their shows simultaneously. There is no way that OSCOV could afford to give its judges a spring holiday!

We therefore have to accept the fact that some judges will have to officiate at shows in which they exhibit. To ensure fair judging, the leader of the judging team will therefore first ask all judges, associates and students if they are exhibitors. Fully accredited judges (who exhibit in the Open Section) will usually be asked to judge the other sections (Intermediate, Advanced Novice or Novice). But they may also need to judge Open Section classes, usually those in which they have no entries. Should they encounter a class in which they do have entries, they must inform their fellow judges and stand well back while those particular classes are judged; in no event must they identify their orchids to the other judges and they would be severely reprimanded if they were ever to do so. So, if you’ve ever wondered why one or more of the judges are “loafing” at the other end of the hall during judging, it’s because they have entries in the particular class being judged.

The same thing applies when the show champions are being chosen from the various class winners towards the end of the show. At this stage the major class winning orchids are usually benched together in a well-lit situation for close comparison and the Grand Champion and Reserve Champion orchids chosen by ballot of all the fully accredited judges present (as a training exercise the student and associate judges sometimes are asked to make first choice but their decision is not necessarily the final one). All judges with any involvement in the orchids under consideration must withdraw until their orchids are eliminated. Ownership is just one form of involvement. For example if a judge is the breeder of a particular hybrid or it is owned by a family member, then he or she cannot participate in judging and must withdraw.

Orchid judging is not an exact science. It’s the exception, rather than the norm, for a Grand Champion orchid to be chosen unanimously by all the judges present. Sometimes, there’s a split decision and the team leader is needed to cast his or her deciding vote. Don’t get the idea that if your orchid is Grand Champion of a closely contested show one week, it must repeat that feat the following week, given a different set of judges and a fresh lot of orchids. Orchid showing (and judging) is meant to be fun, so try not to take the results too seriously. Count your blessings if you win and hope for better luck next time if you don’t.