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Journal American Rhododendron Society

Current Editor:
Dr. Glen Jamieson ars.editor@gmail.com

Volume 17, Number 4
October 1963

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A Preliminary Course for Judges
Clement G. Bowers, Maine N.Y., and Paul D. Vossberg, Westbury, L. I., N.Y.

        "Course One" of a Rhododendron Judging School, presented in Richmond last May by the Middle Atlantic Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society, was frankly an experiment directed towards meeting a need. This need was mainly to help amateur exhibitors and judges at small garden club shows, who are faced with specimens of unclassified rhododendrons and azaleas, which are often new and unfamiliar to them. Others need help, too. In America there are hundreds of smallish local garden clubs, mostly run by ladies in various communities who exhibit all sorts of flowers in season, frequently in a generalized show with schedules which are not specific.
        In the East and Southeast there has been a recent upsurge in the growing and exhibiting of azaleas, just as there has been a similar expansion of rhododendron culture in the Pacific Northwest. People with new seedlings or uncommon varieties are bringing them into flower shows, often not knowing what they are or where they belong. Even the common sorts are frequently unfamiliar to the judges. This has generated confusion and resulted in a request by certain garden club officials that some sort of training course be instituted by the Rhododendron Society looking toward an ultimate system of classifying such material for flower shows in a manner similar to that used by certain other plant societies, but geared especially to rhododendrons and azaleas. Dr. Thomas Wheeldon, aware that this problem is worsening and sensing the reasonableness of this request, caused the Middle Atlantic Chapter to undertake the task of initiating such a program and engaged the authors to explore its possibilities and set up a trial course.

Score Cards and Classifications
        Our first effort was to find out what procedures are generally followed in judging rhododendrons at the big shows. To start with, we had the rhododendron score-cards for cut trusses and plants as revised 'and presented in the Quarterly Bulletin for January 1962. Insofar as it went, this was good. However, there was still the obligation to do something about classification in order to place exhibits at a standard flower show into such categories as would separate the mice from the elephants and make it possible to fairly judge comparable materials. Inquiries were made of the Royal Horticultural Society in Britain and of Dr. J. Harold Clarke in the West as to procedures followed in their rhododendron shows.
        It was found that no cut-and-dried practices prevailed universally. Mr. F. P. Knight of the Royal Horticultural Society, speaking of the great rhododendron shows at Vincent Square, wrote: "We do not use a score-card. . . . The procedure is for the judges, usually in teams of three members each, to decide on the merits of the specimens submitted in the Competitive Classes. When a decision has been reached, first, second and third prizes are awarded. It may happen that where it is extremely difficult to make a decision the judges may prepare their own pointing system, but this rarely occurs." In their large shows the cut flower exhibits are set up according to botanical categories, usually by Series into which the various species fall. The hybrids present a more difficult problem, as yet quite imperfectly met, in which hybrid groups, such as the 'Loderi' race for example, are gathered together to make a Class. All told, there were upwards of 110 classes in the 1963 show.
        Dr. Clarke's remarks were most helpful and, in part, were read into the record as part of the course. "I think," he wrote, "that more than half of the classes I have judged have been placed primarily on condition...There will be one or two which stand out above the others because of their perfection. There will be no nicks or holes in the petals, the leaves will not have notched edges or brown tips, the truss will stand upright instead of being bent at right angles, and the flowers will have that fresh look which indicates that they are in-the pink of condition." He goes on to speak of the problems of judging between closely allied sorts and then, conversely, of those too unlike to be comparable, such as making a choice between a large-flowered specimen and a small-flowered dwarf, as is sometimes encountered in a sweepstakes competition. "Here you have a real problem. I suppose all you can do is to judge both against 100% and give the prize to the one which scores the highest."
        Mention should be made of the fine cooperation received from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in helping with reference material. They, and apparently the New York and Pennsylvania Horticultural Societies, too, employ the Rhododendron Society's score-card.

Help Needed for Small Shows
        None of these sources produced any help towards classifying azaleas or rhododendrons for a small show where the whole range of the genus, with its botanical complexities, with clones and hybrids, cannot be even approached. As Dr. Henry Skinner appropriately remarked, there is a need for two or three different kinds of classifications; one for a large comprehensive rhododendron show, another for a small local show, and a third for situations in between. In beginning this work, it seemed wise to confine our attention to the problems of a small local flower show, as arranged for a garden club in the East where the exhibits include a high percentage of azaleas and not many true rhododendrons except the common ones-the native species, their hybrids, a few hybrids of the Fortunei Series, plus some other miscellaneous species. Conceivably any successful system applied to a small show might later be extended in detail for use at a larger show.
        In presenting the course, we began by explaining briefly the setup of a standard flower show as regulated by the National Council of State Garden Clubs, defining its purpose, its objectives and its routine organization. This was followed by a discussion of the score-card, the relation of cultural practices to exhibiting, and the explanation of certain technical terms used with rhododendrons. Finally, a simple outline was presented in which an attempt was made to classify the commoner types of azaleas and rhododendrons for use in a strictly amateur flower show. Last of all, and after a luncheon break, a moot flower show was staged in which the authors, with the added help of Mr. Gordon Jones from Planting Fields Arboretum, acted out the parts of a team of judges, while members of the audience were assigned to play the roles of committee chairmen and flower show officials of various kinds. This latter performance involved audience participation as well as audible discussion by the judges, and frequent lively arguments with "exhibitors" and "committeemen." All sorts of typical situations arose, some being ludicrous, such as when the judges were pressed to give preferential consideration to an exhibitor "because she was just a new mother." However, a realistic example was demonstrated of what may happen at any flower show.
        To recount in summary the content of the lectures, the first statement defined the purpose of a flower show as an effort to educate exhibitors and the public through (1) showing good plant material; (2) stimulating cultural skill; and (3) demonstrating the uses of plant material. It was explained that the objective of this course was limited to judging show materials and did not involve evaluating plants for garden merit or the rating of new varieties.

Flower Show Organization
     The routine organization of a flower show was described and reference was made to a book of rules 'and directives called the "Flower Show Handbook," issued by the National Council of State Garden Clubs, which governs many shows. The duties of customary flower show officials were described, such as the General Show Chairman and the Staging Committee. The Schedule Committee was stressed as important with the responsibility of working out beforehand the principal categories into which the exhibition material must be assigned. Similarly, the Classification Committee is extremely important at the show itself, for they are the ones who must look over all the exhibits 'as they enter the show and see that each conforms to the rules of the schedule and that it is placed in its proper category in the show. When necessary, the Classification Committee can set up additional classes for entries which come in unexpectedly and do not fit into existing categories. Obviously, well-informed people are needed on this committee. Then there is the Entry Committee which is largely concerned with entry forms and record keeping. Finally there is the Chairman of Judges and Clerks.

Duties of Flower Show Judges
        As for the judges themselves, it is their duty to evaluate the exhibits and make awards according to the schedule; also to write brief comments and recommendations on the award cards This latter is an important educational function by means of which exhibitors and the public alike are shown the good and bad points by means of a short critique on the merits of the specimen or arrangement. The judges may also write more detailed criticisms on their evaluation sheets.
        Consideration was then given to the score-card, and the current card of the American Rhododendron Society was recommended. It was recently published and needs no further elaboration here.
        The junior author then commented at length upon the various imperfections that may be found in exhibition material and spoke of the values that should be assigned to such items. He also went into the matter of what is expected by "excellence in condition," and the various cultural factors involved in producing specimens of perfection. He discussed injuries caused by insects and diseases and how best to combat them, and he described how the environment affects the growth and vigor of exhibition material, pointing out that good cultural practices imply a proper balance of physical, chemical and organic factors.
        Some of the terminology commonly used in connection with rhododendrons and azaleas was then defined by the senior author and is reproduced as follows:
        The genus Rhododendron is a subdivision of a plant Family.
        The species is a subdivision of the genus and may have variations. The names of the genus and species together constitute the official or scientific name by which a natural type of plant is commonly known. This "double name" is sometimes called the binomial.
        The botanical variety is a natural population of plants, constituting a subdivision of the species. It may vary from the typical pattern of the species. It is a collective term rather than an individual "thing."
        A cultivar is either a cultivated variety (and thus a population), or merely an individual plant (thus a clone). This term is seldom used with rhododendrons and need not be taken too seriously here.
        A clone is a named individual, sometimes called "horticultural variety," and is only thus called when it is propagated vegetatively. It is a useful term, since it distinguishes between an exact plant (as a hybrid which is multiplied only from cuttings) and a botanical "variety" (which is usually a population of various seedlings). Under present rules a clone may not bear a Latinized name, but some of the older clones are permitted to retain their original names even when Latinized (e.g. Rhododendron clone 'Atrosanguineum'). Common or garden forms of cultivated rhododendrons and azaleas, except for species, seedlings or botanical varieties, are usually clones.
        A seedling is a new plant resulting from a seed and may be utterly unlike either of its parents.
        A hybrid is a seedling resulting from the union of two unlike parents. If it is worthy of perpetuation it may be propagated vegetatively and thus become a clone.
        Synonyms are common in rhododendrons and may be very confusing. Always use up-to-date nomenclature. The official authority for names is the "International Rhododendron Register."
        Parts of the flower should be familiar to every judge, such as: corolla, stamen, anther, pistil, calyx, bract, pedicel, axils, etc.
        The term dimorphic leaves refers to the two kinds of leaves which occur on the so-called evergreen azaleas of the Obtusum sub-series. These are respectively the broad "summer" leaves which may be deciduous and the narrower "winter" leaves which persist over winter.
        The various races and hybrid groups of rhododendrons and azaleas are numerous and complicated to classify because of interrelationships. Generally an artificial classification is used.
        Finally, a simplified artificial scheme for classifying the various kinds of azaleas and rhododendrons was suggested for trial use. Obviously, no reliable and workable system can be developed without considerable experience in actual usage. This one is suggested for trial in strictly amateur flower shows and is mainly geared to the East where azaleas predominate. It is recommended as a starting point which can be extended to embrace further Series groups and hybrid races for use in larger shows or in regions where a broader representation of species is needed. It should be noted that this is a strictly artificial classification, based upon such factors as size, form and color and not necessarily having reference to natural relationships or point of origin.
        Where hybrid races are concerned, it is extremely difficult to draw a line between one and another, because so many intermediate forms occur. Also, things that are almost the same, but coming from different producers (for example, the so-called Exbury, Knaphill, Goldsworth, and Ham azaleas, or many of the Kaempferi hybrid races) seem to defy classification except on a general basis of type, broken down by categories of color, size and form. An amateur judge at a small flower show cannot be expected to know these things, so that it seems desirable to have some simple features do duty as points of reference. The scheme here presented can be shuffled around and applied in different ways to fit particular situations. It is a "trial balloon" and is subject to much revision, but it seemed to work fairly well with the material that was blooming at Richmond. Both authors agree that a great deal of revision is necessary to make any suggested classification fit into the requirements of a given show, and that the scheme presented here needs even further simplification before it is adapted to the level of hundreds of garden clubs which may have only a limited number of members growing rhododendrons or azaleas and a very elementary knowledge of the subject. However, most of these could recognize four main classes, namely: rhododendrons lepidote and elepidote, and azaleas evergreen and deciduous.

Division I - Azaleas & Deciduous Rhododendrons
1. Those having dimorphic (2 kinds of) leaves (Obtusum sub-series) and evergreen or semi-evergreen foliage.
    Flowers by size: large, medium and small Flowers by form: Single, semi-double or double.
    Flowers by color: white, blush, pink, rose, red, lavender, purple, variegated. 
    Plant by size (only when whole plants are exhibited) : Tall, Medium, Dwarf. 
2. Deciduous azaleas, having five stamens only (Luteum sub-series). 
    Flowers by shape:
          a) Corolla as long as or longer than wide (American species) R. luteum, Ghent and some Exbury hybrids).
          b) Corolla usually wider than long (Mollis and Japonicum hybrids and species R. molle and R. japonicum)
    Flowers by size: under or over 2 inches across.
    Flowers by color: white, blush, pink, rose, red, orange, yellow, cream, variegated, bicolor.
    Flowers by form: single, hose-in-hose, double.
    Plant by habit of growth: ascending, spreading or low. 
3. Azaleas not included above
    Leaves in whorls, inverted egg-shaped (Schlippenbachii sub-series)
    Leaves not in whorls: flowers deeply lobed (Canadense sub-series) R. vaseyi and R. canadense (Rhodora)
4. Deciduous rhododendrons (Dauricum sub-series): R. mucronulatum

Division II - Non-Scaly (Elepidote) Rhododendrons

1. Ponticum Series (R. catawbiense, maximum, ponticum, etc. & hybrids)*
2. Fortunei Series (R. fortunei, Dexter Hybrids, 'Pink Pearl' and allies)*
3. Dwarf or semi-dwarf species and hybrids: R. williamsianum and hybrids*; R. forrestii and hybrids*.
4. Those not as above (can be extended to other series groups).
Division III - Scaly (Lepidote) Rhododendrons
1. Carolinianum Series
2. Those not as above (can be extended).
* Simple diagnostic characters should be included, but are omitted here for brevity.

Volume 17, Number 4
October 1963

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