|National Capital Judging Center
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What do I need to do before I bring an orchid in to be judged?
A: First, Make sure your plant is not harboring any pests or diseases. Second, groom your plant of dried
plant material, yellowing leaves and unsightly damage. Although the plant itself may not be considered for
a horticultural award and points are only attributed to the flower(s) or inflorescence, the showing of a well
grown, healthy plant always helps toward a good presentation. Some people place their potted plant inside
a decorative pot, but most will present their plants in the pots they are growing in. Remember – judges are
looking at the flowers or plant, not the pot.
Q: What is considered “appropriate flower manipulation”?
A: Technically speaking, a flower or group of flowers should not be “manipulated” in any way that would
miss-represent the flower’s natural appearance. So what does this mean? If you have to bend or press the
flower parts in order to flatten them or change their natural stance, this would be considered inappropriate
manipulation. If, however staking the inflorescence helps support the flowers and better presents them to
the judges, this would be considered appropriate. The discussion as to what is appropriate and what is
inappropriate can go on at length. Ideally, all an exhibitor should have to do is bloom their plant and bring
it to judging.
Q: What should I expect when I come to a judging?
A: Judges meet once a month at their respective judging centers to judge plants and continue their ongoing
education. Each center structures their training and judging differently and may change their format from
month to month. Here at the National Capital Judging Center, we usually begin judging around 12:00 -12:
Depending on the number of judges present and the number of plant to be judge, we will judge either in two
separate groups or as a committee of one. Clerks will present the judging team(s) with a plant that has
been registered to be judged. Exhibitors are welcome to listen in to the judges comments, but can not
participate in the discussion. The judges are not to have any knowledge of who the plant belongs to or who
brought the plant to be judged. Once all the plants have been judged and the awarded plants described,
training and education begins. This can be in the form of student and probationary judge presentations,
slide shows of recent awards or any number of venues. The public is also welcome to stay and listen and
Q: What time should I bring a plant in to be judged and how long does it take.
A: You can bring your plant in to be judged any time before judging begins and as long as judging is in
progress. Generally speaking, the sooner you get your plants to judging, the sooner they will be judged.
Some plants may be judged ahead of others for various reasons. If your plant/flower is awarded, it must be
described and photographed. This may take a while, since descriptions may not commence until all the
plants have been judged. If your plant/flower is screened (not awarded), then you are free to collect you
plant(s), but we encourage you to stay and enjoy the rest of the judging and educational portion of the day.
Q: How do I register a plant or flower to be judged?
A: AOS entry forms are available when you bring in your plant(s) to be judged. If they aren’t on one of the
plant tables, just ask a judge or clerk, where they are kept.
This is a great opportunity to introduce yourself to one of the judges or clerks so they can help you
through the simple registration process. It’s also a great opportunity for one of us to get to know you! – a
new exhibitor and fellow orchid enthusiast.
The entry forms will ask for your name, contact information, the name of your plant/flower as well as the
plant’s/flower’s parents. If you don’t know the parents of your cross or you only have the parent’s names,
the clerks will be happy to assist you in getting that information. If the cross has not been registered, just
note this on the form. The plant can still be judged, but you will have to register the cross before any award
can be recorded with the AOS.
The entry form will also ask for the clonal name of the plant. If your plant doesn't already have one, you
should provide your own clonal name. The clonal name you give your plant will identify that plant from all
other plants of that cross. You can choose any name you like. Many people like to be creative with the
clonal name (like “My Thai”) or name the plant after a loved one.
The last question on the form is: “Has this flower/inflorescence been previously judged?”. If it has, it is
not eligible to be judged again. You must wait until the plant flowers again for it to be judged.
Fold the entry form so the bottom portion with your name is hidden from view and put it with your plant on
the Plant Holding Table. Judges will be previewing the plants with the entry forms and must not know who
the plants belong to.
Q: How do I know if my flower is good enough to be judged?
A: Any flower can be judged. Not all flowers, however, are awardable. There’s nothing wrong with bringing
in your favorite flower and having it judged. Just because a flower isn’t awardable, doesn’t mean it’s not
beautiful. It just means that it doesn’t meet the high standards the judges are looking for in that particular
Bringing your plant to judging and having it evaluated can be very educational an informative. That’s how
we learn. You may be surprised; Judges might ask you to bring the plant back when it produces more
flowers or when the flowers open up more. You might also learn that, although beautiful, a particular flower
is expressing more of the less desirable traits of its parents than good ones. It’s a great learning
Q: What is a judging center ?
A: A judging center is simply a place where AOS judges meet once a month to judge flowers/plants.
Flowers/plants can be brought in or mailed to any judging center regardless of where the flower/plant was
Judges are associated with a particular judging center, but not necessarily with the center closest to where
they live. Judges can choose which judging center they wish to report to.
Judging centers generally have a single sponsoring orchid society: one which supports the center’s initial
setup and continued operation. In the case of the National Capital Judging Center, the National Capital
Orchid Society is our sponsoring orchid society. Neighboring orchid societies also support the local
centers with financial contributions.
Q: How much do judges or the judging centers get paid to judge?
A: Neither the judges nor the judging centers receive any type of financial reward for judging. Judges
enter the judge’s training program knowing that they cannot accept any payment or any type of
compensation for their services as an AOS judge.
Q: How much will my award cost me? Why is it so much?
A: The fee for an award varies according to weather the exhibitor is a member of the American Orchid
Society or not. Currently it is $45.00 for members and $65.00 for non-members. This amount helps defer
the much larger cost of data entry and paperwork. Most of this work is preformed on a volunteer basis,
however there is still a great deal of expense involved.
Q: What kind of awards might I receive?
A: There are many types of awards that a flower, plant or exhibitor might receive from the American
Orchid Society. Learn more about orchid awards and judging at the American Orchid Society web site: