Here is the AHS definition for branching.
Branching is not a trait that can be used as a ruler across all cultivars in an exhibition show.
There. I said it.
Here's the scenario:
I am lenient (yet observant) on branching, until it gets to the head table. Then, I ask classification for registration information on branching if my Best In Show scores are close. (NOTE: I've taken to using my iPhone/iPad during the show to access the AHS Database so I can get the information myself.)
Exhibition Judges should use caution when taking off points for branching simply because it is scant as it appears on the table. You aren't asked to judge whether you think the cultivar has good branching, you are judging whether its branching is showing as it is registered. You might think that cultivars that only branch with a terminal Y are "scant", but if that's how it is registered, then it is not "scant" it is "as registered."
While judging sections, unless I see something that is not proportionate or strange that causes me to check the registration data for branching and bud count, I do not tend to deduct much for branching and bud count. But that's just me.
On the right is a wonderfully branched scape of H. 'Holy Water' from Frank Smith. This was observed in one of his shade houses during the 2009 National Convention.
While judging an exhibit, judges should never say, “Well, look at the branching on THAT one,” pointing to the exhibit that is showing somewhere else in the section. That is an inappropriate comparison to make since registered cultivars are only judged against others in its name class until it reaches the head table. The exhibit competes against itself and its registration data- not other cultivars in the section.
What do you think?