QBARS - v31n2 The ARS Awards Program

The ARS Awards Program
Edwin C. Brockenbrough, M.D., Bellevue, Washington

The ARS Awards Program, as it has evolved over the years, is probably one of the least well understood activities of the Society. There has been considerable confusion about the goals of the Program, about what plants are eligible to be judged, and about how a plant is judged and the nomination submitted. The Board of Directors, at its meeting in Philadelphia on May 20, 1976, approved a re-statement of the policies guiding the Awards Program. It is hoped that this information will provide a better understanding of the Program and will encourage more chapters to participate in its activities.
One important change was prompted by the need to more sharply define the role of the Awards Program, and in particular, to avoid the increasing overlap with the Ratings Program. The emphasis of the Awards Program has now been clearly directed toward the goal of rhododendron improvement. Clones which are well known and widely distributed are no longer eligible for entry into the Program. These established plants are the concern of the Ratings Committee. This committee is charged with assigning quality designations to all registered varieties. In addition, special merit ratings may be given by the Ratings Committee for superior plants which have proven their quality over the years. The Chapter Awards Committees are thus able to concentrate on seeking out and evaluating previously undiscovered plants which show promise of "improving the quality of rhododendron plants available to the gardening public".
This year, for the first time, regional designations will be included with the names of A. E. and S. P. A. plants in ARS publications. The purpose of this addition is to provide better guidance in selecting plants which will perform well in the various climate zones. Seven areas will be identified and these are indicated below under the heading Administration.
In the past the Chapter Awards Committees have had a largely passive role, responding when asked to judge a plant and ceasing to function after the plant has been seen. It is hoped that with a more clearly focused mission the Chapter Awards Committees will actively seek out plants for judging and that, once having named a plant to the Eligibility List, the Committee will assume responsibility for advancing the plant through the Program or dropping it if it does not live up to its promise.
In practice, a Chapter Awards Committee might send out a call each spring to the chapter membership for plants which might be considered for the Awards Program. Such a plant may be either a new hybrid seedling or a superior form of a particular species. It may be of local origin or from another state or country, but should show promise of being superior and be relatively unknown and undistributed. Once a plant has been critically evaluated and named to the Eligibility List, it should be reviewed on a yearly basis. The initiative for continuing evaluation should rest with the Committee, rather than the owner or hybridizer of the plant. Thus a plant's progress will depend more on its merit than on the enthusiasm of its originator.

Awards Program: Purpose

The purpose of the Awards Program is to improve the quality of the Rhododendron plants available to the general public by discovering superior plants, by publicizing these plants, and by utilizing the facilities and influence of the ARS to insure propagation and distribution.
Further stated, the Awards Program shall be concerned primarily with Rhododendron improvement. Therefore any plant may be considered eligible for the Program if it is newly discovered and if it shows promise of being superior to other plants with which it might be compared. It should be emphasized that the discovery of superior forms of Rhododendron species is encouraged, as well as the development of improved hybrid varieties.
The Awards Program shall not be concerned with plants already widely distributed, well established and generally well known. Such plants, if rated by the Ratings Committee as 5/5, 5/4 or 4/5, are eligible for special recognition granted by the Ratings Committee of the ARS.


The president of the Society shall direct the operation of the Program according to policies approved by the Board of Directors. These policies shall be developed and modified as necessary to permit all Chapters and geographical areas to achieve the aims set forth under "Purpose". The Awards Committee shall consist of a National Chairman and two Regional Chairmen, one designated "Eastern Awards Chairman" and one designated "Western Awards Chairman". The Regional Chairmen shall have the responsibility for communicating with Chapter Awards Committees, providing the necessary forms and information on procedural matters, and receiving chapter Awards nominations. The Award nominations shall be submitted to the National Awards Chairman by September 1st of each year so that they may be acted upon by the Board of Directors at its fall meeting. The Board of Directors may grant Awards on the recommendation of the Awards Committee.
The Award abbreviations 'A. E.' and 'S. P. A.' shall follow the name of the awarded Rhododendron in all publications of the Society. In addition, a regional designation shall be included indicating the area or areas in which the Award is significant.
The areas to be so designated are:
Northeast (N. E.)
Middle Atlantic (M. A.)
Southern (S.)
Great Lakes (G. L.)
Northwest (N. W.)
Northern Calif. (N. C.)
Southern Calif. (S. C.)

Chapter Awards Committees

The President of each Chapter participating in the Program shall appoint a Chapter Awards Committee of at least five but no more than eleven members, one of whom shall be designated Chairman. The names of these committee members shall be submitted to the Regional Awards Chairman on the ARS Annual Report Form. The duties of the chairman shall be to receive requests for Award judgings, to call meetings as necessary during the blooming season for the purpose of judging plant material, and to prepare and transmit the official forms to the Regional Awards Chairman by September 1 st of each year.
Each committee member shall serve as an Awards Judge and shall submit a ballot on each plant he has judged for a Conditional Award or higher directly to the Regional Awards Chairman.
The Chapter Awards Committee shall actively seek out new and improved hybrids and species for entry into the Awards Program. Once a plant has been entered into the Program, it shall be the responsibility of the Committee to repeatedly evaluate the plant's merits in future years and to either progress it to a higher Award or drop it, as indicated.


Nomination of a plant to the Eligibility List is the initial step which enters a clone into the Awards Program. Inclusion of a plant on the list does not in itself constitute an award but indicates that the plant is considered worthy of further observation and is eligible to be judged for an award in the future years. Any plant, species or hybrid, may be judged for the Eligibility List, provided that the clone is relatively unknown, in limited distribution, and not an established commercial variety.

Judging Procedure:
1. At least three judges shall inspect the plant, or a truss thereof, and a majority of those present and voting shall be the basis for inclusion.
2. If a favorable ballot is reached, a description shall be prepared on an official Awards Form and forwarded to the Regional Awards Chairman.
Nomination of a plant to the Eligibility List shall be for a period of five years. If by the fifth year the plant has not progressed to a Conditional Award, it will be automatically dropped from the roster. It may be re-instated only by re-submission to the Chapter Awards Committee for judging.

The Conditional Award indicates that the plant appears to have ornamental and cultural qualities which are superior to those of currently available clones of similar color, plant habit, and blooming period. It is conferred with the understanding that some weaknesses may not be apparent until a plant has been propagated and more widely grown and that such a trial is indicated before the plant can be judged for a major award.

Eligibility Requirements:

1. The plant must have been named to the Eligibility List during a previous year.
2. The plant must be named and registered with the A.R.S.

Judging Procedure:
1. An entire blooming plant must be viewed.
2. At least three judges shall inspect the plant, and they shall reach their decision without consultation or discussion with the owner.
3. Ballots shall be forwarded by each judge directly to the Regional Awards Chairman. Failure to submit a ballot will be tabulated as a negative vote.
4. A description shall be prepared on the form, "Nomination for Conditional Award," by the Chapter Awards Chairman. Color photographs shall accompany the description. These may be either color prints or slides but must be of adequate quality to permit positive identification. At least two photographs should be submitted, one showing the entire plant and one showing a close-up of a single truss.
5. The ballots will be tabulated by the Regional Awards Chairman.  One negative ballot shall deny the award unless seven or more judges inspect, in which case two negative ballots are necessary to deny.

The Award of Excellence is a major award which indicates that a plant is considered to have ornamental and cultural qualities superior to those of contemporary plants of similar color, plant habit, and blooming period, with which it might be compared.

Eligibility Requirements:
1. The plant shall have been conferred a Conditional Award in a previous year.
2. The plant shall exist in quantity of at least 100, and proof must be offered that an active program of propagation is underway.
3. The plant shall have been evaluated by the Ratings Committee and be rated as at least 4/4.

Judging Procedure:
1. Judging procedure is the same as for the Conditional Award. 2. Current photographs shall be submitted along with the completed form, "Nomination for Award of Excellence".

SUPERIOR PLANT AWARD (S .P. A.) The Superior Plant Award is the highest award conferred by the ARS and is reserved for the rare, truly outstanding plant that is distinctly superior to other contemporary plants of similar color, plant habit, and blooming period, with which it might be compared.

Eligibility Requirements:
1. The plant shall be the holder of an Award of Excellence conferred in a prior year.
2. It shall be in the plant trade and distributed by more than one nursery.
3. It may be nominated by any member of the Society, and the judging shall be the responsibility of the Chapter to which the nominating member belongs.
4. The plant shall have been evaluated by the Ratings Committee and be rated as at least 5/4 or 4/5.

Judging Procedure:
1 . At least five judges shall inspect the blooming plant.
2. The judges must inspect at least three plants growing in gardens separated one from the other by not less than one mile.
3. The official form, "Nomination for Superior Plant Award", shall be completed and forwarded, along with current color photographs, to the Regional Awards Chairman.
4. Judges ballots shall be forwarded by each judge directly to the Regional Awards Chairman. Failure to submit a ballot will be tabulated as a negative vote.
5. More than one negative vote will deny the award.
6. An objection voiced by any five members of the Awards Committee of another chapter shall be sufficient to postpone the Award. Such objection must be in writing directed to the Regional Awards Chairman, must be factually supported and may not be based simply on adverse environmental conditions existing in the objecting Chapter's area. In case of such objection, the Directors of the ARS, after consulting with all parties, shall render a final and binding decision.

Annual Report

Each Chapter Awards Committee should submit an annual report of its activities, on the form provided, to include a roster of plants named to the Eligibility List in previous years, and those plants which have been given Conditional Awards.