Judge not, lest ye be judged... | Daylily Blog on Daylily Exhibitions

"Common sense is that which judges the things given to it by other senses." - Leonardo Da Vinci

Hybridizers are people who find fulfillment in breeding and growing daylilies and they have many facets to consider when deciding to register a daylily with AHS. For the purposes of this discussion, we will abandon the "is it worthy of registration" debate and consider other factors that a hybridizer is faced with when registering a daylily with AHS.

A hybridizer considers how a particular seedling will do in various climates (hopefully), how quickly a daylily multiplies, how it opens, how big it blooms, how its progeny affect the future, how it is different than current registrations, and overall how this daylily "fits in" to the overall landscape of the daylily world. Hybridizers (registrants of daylilies) consider these things, and more. Much, much more.
I would venture a guess that how a particular daylily will "fit in" with the established AHS Exhibitions System is not high on the list for most hybridizers. There are many people with a hand in the process of getting an exhibit on the show bench and getting it judged. The hybridizer, the registrar, the Judges Education Committee, the Exhibitions Committee, sellers, growers, exhibitors, show floor volunteers, judges, show chairs and finally, and yet the most important part of our AHS accredited exhibition shows, the general public. And therein lies the problem.

- I know hybridizers who do not register daylilies with the AHS to avoid all the bureaucracy involved.
- I know hybridizers who inflate their registration data elements to sell more plants. 
- I know hybridizers who intentionally register daylilies in weird (sic) ways in order to challenge the system and work loopholes in both the registration process and the exhibitions process.
- I know hybridizers who wish their daylilies wouldn’t be exhibited because they are better as garden plants and not as stand-alone scape exhibits.
- I know hybridizers who register daylilies specifically for certain sections of the show.
- I know hybridizers who have exhibited a registered, AHS award-winning cultivar in the seedling section of the show just to prove a point that judges judge seedlings differently because they are labeled "seedlings."
- I know hybridizers who never even think their daylily will make it outside of their own garden, let alone on a show bench.
- I know hybridizers who don’t know there is an established Standard of Point Scoring for daylilies in Exhibitions.
The current AHS Exhibitions System relies wholly on the AHS registration process, which, when functioning correctly, relies wholly on the hybridizer. We have heard again and again that there are 64,000+ daylilies registered that could at any time show up at an exhibition show to compete and there is no way that any panel of 20, let alone 3 judges would know a third of them. To enter any of the AHS Rosette sections, a daylily must be registered with AHS (with the exception of the seedling section- which could be the topic of a whole book by itself.) This relationship between showing daylilies and registering them properly is a tumultuous one. The exhibitor (and the daylily) are penalized if it is not grown to the registered criteria. If a hybridizer registers a daylily at 7", it can only compete in one section of the show, and that is Section 1- Extra Large Flowers (unless it is a popularity poll winner, or exhibited by a youth, but we shall stay on the periphery of those details for the purpose of this discussion…)

If said daylily is registered at 7", but today, at the show is exhibited at about 5.5", it will be penalized some points by the panel of 3 judges that are charged to judge it. It will not be disqualified, it will not be thrown out, it will not lose all its points for form and size. The exhibit will most likely lose a few points for form and/or size and will not make it to the head table to compete for Best In Show, due to the fact that IT IS NOT PERFORMING TO REGISTERED STANDARDS.

AHS registration standards are the cleanest benchmark that judges have to evaluate entries in an exhibition show. Who else would know their flower better than the person who registered it? Who should know the details and intricacies of the flower better than the hybridizer? Well, at least they should.

If all judges on a panel do not know the flower, they can call for the Classification committee at the show to consult the AHS Registration Database to find out the details. What size is it supposed to be? What is its description? If the exhibit on the table doesn’t match the registration details, points are deducted, penalizing both the exhibit and personally disconcerting the exhibitor who is disappointed in the fact they might not have grown the daylily as well as they could, or the hybridizer did not register it properly, or the registrar made some sort of mistake in the data. With that said, I know for a fact that all judges panels at shows do not consult the AHS Registration Database for every flower that they do not personally know.

The AHS Registration Database comes into serious play when exhibits make it to the head table to compete for Best In Show. If an exhibit is really a spider but is showing unusual form characteristics on show day so the exhibitor put it in the UF section AND classification didn’t catch it AND placement didn’t catch it AND the 3-judge panel didn’t catch it, the AHS Exhibitions Chair WILL catch it before the final reports are printed in the Journal and this particular winner will not appear. Whose fault is this?

Breeding daylilies for show is not much different (intellectually) than breeding dogs or pigeons or tomatoes for show. There is a key to the riddle of exhibitions, and that key is inherently taught in Exhibition Judge's training and published in the free downloadable judges handbook – Judging Daylilies.

A hybridizer who is also an exhibitor may be a rare bird. I would cautiously state on circumstantial data that most hybridizers do not like the current judging standards (at least for seedlings) and those who have exhibited seedlings in a show are generally not happy (i.e. do not agree) with the results and do not return to exhibit again in the seedling section. I will leave that at that, as I think we get into a distinction debate and a personal taste (subjective/objective) issue that is not part of this thread for now.

Tommy Maddox (whose cultivar H. 'Abilene Crab Claws' I grow along with two of his very cool seedlings) mentioned leveling the playing field in a show by not telling the judges what flower they are judging and let the flower be judged on its own merits. How would I know what the merits are if I don’t have the registration database? I would be limited to my own personal tastes, and I would have to balance those tastes with the two other judges on my panel to come to a consensus on a score. I don’t think it's possible. It's too subjective, and we currently have issues with that in the seedling section, where 25 points are awarded for perceived distinction. But I'm with you, Tommy, there needs to be a change, but I think the change falls to Judge's Education – both current and future judges. And I know for a fact that education and quite often RE-education, is a monumental task and is so easier said than done.

Again, daylilies are judged to a published standard. It isn’t secret. The registration standards are used to determine where a daylily goes in the show and the Judge's Handbook provides a scale of points and a standard set of rules for judges to follow.

Do we not agree on the standard by which they are judged (driven by Judge's Education), or do we not agree that the registration data (driven by the hybridizer) should be used to organize an exhibition show?

Exhibition shows are a small, but regal part of the larger daylily landscape; a formal event meant in its essence to stimulate interest in the daylily in a setting where daylilies usually would not be seen – inside. "Take the mountain to Mohammed," it was once said – and that’s what we do with daylily shows. Yes, to quote many a post of late, it is understood that the daylily show seems "fake" and "staged" and "not natural" and "misleading to the general consumer." But the point is to take the mountain to Mohammed and pump him/her full of daylily goodness while we have the captive audience.

Is the heart of the AHS the hybridizer? Is it our registration process? Is it exhibiting? Is it display gardens? Is it the board of directors? Is it daylily commerce? It is science and discovery? Is it fellowship and education? Why, yes, yes it is.

DISCLAIMER: I will go on record that I am not a historian of the AHS Exhibitions System (there are many out there that hopefully will chime in) but I am a senior exhibition judge, an exhibitions instructor, and someone who loves, loves, LOVES to exhibit daylilies. I have helped with a revision or two of the current Judging Daylilies handbook, serve on the Judge's Education committee and work as Exhibitions Expeditor. I also judge as many shows as I am invited to attend. Although I am not a hybridizer, I am a stalker – um, friend to many. I buy a lot, travel a lot, share a lot and eavesdrop a lot on conversations I am not qualified to participate in. I have won Best In Show more than once and had countless other entries make it to the head table, all of which hopefully qualifies me to make the above semi-educated, personal opinion statements on the exhibitions process in general.


Lee and Jean Pickles said...

Nikki, When on earth do you have time to do all of this? Do you sleep at all? Does your husband know your name? :-) Lee

Unknown said...

Nikki, thanks so much for your wonderful blogs and the lovely day lilies you sent. They are all taken care of.Come next summer I will send pics. I gave them a beautiful spot in my ever so growing large garden.



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