Yes, she has more to say... | Daylily Blog on Judging Seedlings

Judging  seedlings in an AHS-accredited exhibition show is no easy feat.  As a judge, if you can understand and internalize the fact that judges are basically judging a gardener's child, you are halfway to understanding the delicate nature of judging the seedling section.

According to an official publication of the American Hemerocallis Society, Judging Daylilies, the procedures are fairly clear. However, at three exhibition shows I where I served as a judge in 2010, it seems as though exhibition judges have a long way to go in evaluating this section of the show appropriately and in line with the spirit of AHS guidelines. 

From this handbook -

"In judging seedlings, the primary purpose is to encourage cultivars only if they are different from and superior to registered cultivars already in commerce. When a seedling wins an AHS award, the public has a right to expect it to represent an advancement in hybridizing (page 43.)"

There is no reference to the fact that judges have to LIKE the seedlings presented to them on the show bench.

Here are a few phrases for your consideration:

"Oh, not another yellow."
"I'm really tired of UFO's. Aren't you?"
"Why do people insist on breeding for this chicken fat?"
"What a waste."
"Now that's just ugly."
"What were they THINKING?"
"I have one in my seedling bed almost like that one, but better."
"Looks just like 'El Desperado.'  Yawn."

Those aren't made up quotes, folks. Those are actual statements, heard by me, during accredited exhibition shows.  Some people won't find anything wrong with what those judges said out loud.  I do.

From a Judge's Education standpoint, I think we are missing the mark in judging seedlings. I think we are missing the spirit of the established procedure, or we are choosing to ignore it altogether.  We have a scale by which to measure the seedlings in the show. The scale is not debate-able.  Here is that scale:

25 points is for DISTINCTION.   My thoughts on "what distinction is or isn't in an exhibition show" can be found here.  According to the earlier referenced handbook,

"...distinction has the utmost priority when judging seedlings. A judge should examine THE WHOLE EXHIBIT for distinction first, then the other qualities individually (page 43.)"

The problem is we are all interpreting the word distinction differently. It is okay that we all have a different vision of what we personally see as distinct. You hone your distinctive eye with experience and money and exposure and miles on your daylily-mobile. Judges are supposed to examine THE WHOLE EXHIBIT for distinction. Not just the face. Not just the scape that may have been cut too short by an inexperienced exhibitor. Not just the fact that the scape is past its peak. THE WHOLE EXHIBIT - which includes, but is certainly not limited to branching, bud count, season, scape height, bud building traits, etc. THE WHOLE EXHIBIT.

After the 25 points for distinction are awarded (and it is permissible for judges to give ZERO points for distinction) then the judges should move on to the rest of the scale. 40 points for the flower itself, 30 points for the scape and only 5 points for condition and grooming. If the judges decide the exhibit loses ALL 25 of the distinction points, it is not possible for it to receive any AHS-sanctioned ribbon, as yellow ribbons must receive 80 points or more.

I think we may be expecting too much in our seedling sections at the exhibition show. I am not supporting awarding mediocrity, but I am supporting encouragement and guidance. Hybridizers do not submit seedlings into the seedling section of an AHS accredited show for the heck of it - I believe they do it to get some constructive criticism from an exhibition judge who has a micro-view of what daylilies on a particular day, shown inside, under artificial conditions can do. Rarely do you see established, well-known, seasoned hybridizers entering the seedling section.  Why do you think that is? 

If you only absorb one thing from this post and my soapbox, let it be this:
I am amazed that entered as a seedling, the daylily exhibit has a difficult scale of points to contend with...but once that seedling is registered and becomes a daylily in commerce - POOF!  It competes only against itself, not every other daylily in commerce as seedlings do, which as we all know, is a much easier situation to win.

Please go back and read that  last bit again.  Let me know what you think.

Judges may be expecting to see the next big breakthrough in daylilies on the show bench. That is not realistic. Those breakthroughs are not going to show up on the show bench and that expectation is setting us all up for failure. Judges will continue to be hesitant on judging seedlings altogether and hybridizers will continue to either not enter them or be frustrated with the lack of guidance and comment from the panel who deemed their exhibit "not worthy" of even a note.

I'd encourage exhibition judges to consider what lens they are using as they are evaluating seedlings. If you are going to not award a ribbon to an exhibit, at least have the courtesy to write a short note as to why you are choosing not to do so. Here are some other things that we might be able to do through the AHS:

Maybe AHS can have special post-it notes printed just for this section, where judges can choose from a list of reasons why this particular exhibit does not merit a ribbon.

Maybe clerks can be trained to write judges comments on the back of the entry tags.

Maybe show chairs and clubs can encourage more hybridizers to enter the seedling section by providing these pages from the AHS handbook so they know by what yardstick they will be evaluated.

Maybe we can have a "Judging Seedlings in an Exhibition Show" forum/seminar at an AHS event.

Certainly we can think of ways to make this section a safe place for hybridizers (big and small) to gather feedback on what some consider their life's work. Everyone should be aware that evaluating a daylily on the show bench and evaluating a daylily in the garden are two completely different animals. If you encounter a daylily that performs superior in both arenas, then you certainly have found a winner.

Wow. This post is certainly a mouthful and I do not want you to get my intentions twisted. I started this thought process after judging three shows in three states in 2010 and encountered VERY different methods (and madness) when judging seedlings. The gap between the shows and styles was too great to ignore.

I do not want to give out Honorable Mentions, or "thank you for showing up" ribbons.

I do not want to coddle or award mediocrity.

I do not want judges to spend nine hours judging the seedling section (as one judge recently pointed out was how long it would take her to look at every entry and judge it with the point scale, which is why she wasn't going to do so.)

I do not want to set anyone up for failure - judges or exhibitors.

I do want the spirit of why we are asked to judge seedlings considered - specifically by exhibition judges. What is that spirit? To give each exhibit its due time with the current scale of points for judging seedlings.

Who disagrees?  


Anonymous said...

Gee, you make it sounds so fun. i think i will take the judging class you are teaching.


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