There are many elements that combine to make a good rose show, as well as many people needed to bring these various elements off in good order. Read down the list of committee chairs in any show and you’ll see 1½-2 dozen names of people filling important positions. Lest you think that those at the bottom, in charge of “properties,” “recorder,” “bloom hydration,” etc. are not important, I encourage you to volunteer to be general chairman at your society’s next show for a quick wake-up call.

Many societies keep notebooks or other instructional material for these committee chairs so that incoming people can not only learn the basics of their job but can record tips and tribulations for their successors. Other societies pass this information on orally, but the point is that we all try and provide guidance of some kind to our various committee chairs in order to keep things running smoothly from year to year. The exception to this approach is in the area of judging, where the ARS assumes the responsibility for instruction and continuity. They issue guidelines for judges, train and test judges, evaluate apprentices judges, give awards for outstanding judges, promulgate ethics for judges, ad infinitum. However, with all this concern for judges and judging, the ARS has neglected any kind of guidance or advice for Judging Chairmen, without whom the whole process can rapidly deteriorate into near-chaos.

Chairmen of Judges are concerned with more than just rounding up a sufficient pool of judges, giving them their assignments, and then turning them loose. They have what amounts to a dual responsibility: first, to the exhibitors to see that everything is judged fairly and in a timely fashion; and second, to the judges themselves to see that everyone is used to the best of their abilities without slights or prejudices. Balancing the intensity of the exhibitors with the personalities (some would say the egos) of the judges is not always an easy matter, and occasional disagreements, real as well as potential, must be considered and mitigated by the Judging Chairman. From exhibitors who are positive their roses were poorly or unfairly judged to judges who tacitly disqualify–push to the back–any rose variety except the 2 dozen or so they know, the job of the Judging Chair can be a stressful one, and I have nothing but admiration for those people who take on this responsibility year after year.
What kinds of things should a Judging Chairman do, prior to and during the show itself, to insure that all parties are treated fairly and the roses are judged equitably? I solicited comments on this subject from some experienced Judging Chairs within the District, namely Jim Campbell, Caroline Fredette, John Lauer, and Bruce Lind, and added my own thoughts to the mix as one who has judged, but never chaired the judging for a show. The following is a broad but certainly not exhaustive list of items for consideration by judges and judging chairs alike.

• Give the judges as much consideration as possible. Get out the judging invitations early, get copies of the show schedule and any special instructions sent out as soon as possible, and spread the assignments around so that all judges have a chance to judge all rose types, as well as the challenges. Jim Campbell emphasized fostering as much dialogue as possible between the judges and judging teams–during the challenge judging, the Court(s) judging, and hopefully during a post-show judges luncheon–with the expectation that judges will continually learn from each other.

• Select good team captains. After the Judging Chairman himself, the team captains bear the most responsibility for timely and efficient judging, ensuring all the team’s assignments are judged in the order specified by the Chairman, that entry cards are properly marked and/or punched, that the clerks are fulfilling their assignments, that entries to be judged for a trophy are properly staged, that trophy-winning entries are properly marked for the clerks/runners. etc. In addition, the team captain should know the show schedule, as well as the rose classes and types being judged, in order to direct the efforts of their team. It is my opinion, for example, that competent judges can do a good job of judging a class with which they are unfamiliar–OGRs for example–if they have a knowledgeable team captain to guide them. A captain who knows OGRs can take care of the always thorny problem of identification, sort out Dowager and Victorian entries (and the inevitable misplaced shrub), confirm whether a bloom’s color, foliage, and other features are typical of the variety, etc., and thus assisted, the other members of the team can confidently judge the roses. Three OGR “experts” are not needed for an able judging team, just a knowledgeable captain and two good judges.

• Keep all necessary references on hand, to include the latest edition of Modern Roses, the Handbook for Selecting Roses, the Combined Rose List, and copies of the American Rose magazine from Feb. onward for the current year. The American Rose will cover where the current year’s CRL cuts off (usually Feb. 1) while MR10 (soon to be 11) will take care of out-of-commerce roses that are still exhibitable. My friend Brian Fredette, age 7, says that he is tired of having judges disqualify his exhibits of ‘Uetersen,’ a red shrub introduced by Tantau in 1939, because they think it should be ‘Rosarium Uetersen,’ a deep pink LCL from Kordes in 1977. Which leads into our next item:

• The Chairman of Judges should review disqualifications for misnamed roses. This type of DQ is probably the biggest bone of contention among both experienced and novice exhibitors. It is also quite understandable, since judges can’t be expected to be familiar with every rose variety that passes before them. Some judges, however, tend to overdo it in this area. My suggestion would be that the Judging Chairman instruct that all blue ribbon specimens and others in consideration for a trophy whose identity is questionable be referred to him for review before being DQ’ed. This would allow him to check the rose’s description in MR10, bring in another judging team to consider the specimen, or do whatever he considers necessary. Red, white, and yellow ribbon winners can be dealt with less urgently, but disqualifying a potential trophy winner on the say-so of a single team (see ‘Uetersen’ above) is risky, and I think the exhibitors deserve better.

• If at all possible, have a check team of 2-3 judges review all award winners before they are recorded and placed on the trophy table. The most obvious reason for this is to check multiple-stem challenge entries to see that they are in compliance with show rules. Judges may not touch challenge entries while judging them, and with translucent or opaque vases, they must often guess whether or not an exhibit of three stems of floribunda in a single vase actually contains only three stems. However, once the exhibit is judged, they or another team are allowed to pull the stems far enough out of the vase to check. In the interest of saving time, it is often more efficient to have a check team do this, in addition to looking for other disqualifying features that the judging team may have missed. It should be emphasized that a check team does not rejudge an exhibit, but merely passes it through or flags it as needed.

• Finally, I think it important that Judging Chairs make it point to give any apprentice judges in their show ample opportunity to judge the challenge classes. This is an area that is sorely deficient in the Guidelines for Judging Roses and is likewise often given short shrift in our judging schools.

Apprentices need experience in challenge judging, and they need to be able to converse with and learn from the other members of their judging team, which precludes the “silent ballot” approach favored by the ARS. I also think it would be helpful to apprentice judges if the Chairman were to inquire in what area they considered themselves weak, and/or what classes they have judged previously during their apprenticeship, and then place them accordingly so they can improve the areas they need to work on in concert with accredited judges.

There are also a number of things a Judging Chairman can do to facilitate efficiency (i.e., speed) during judging so that entries, especially the Courts, can be judged as closely as possible in the condition in which they were entered. Caroline Fredette mentioned the use of the “card system,” in which only about half of the show sections are originally assigned to teams, with the other half being distributed on cards to those teams who finish their assignments first. This allows slow teams or those judging large sections to take sufficient time without delaying the judging of other sections. There are a number of other possibilities for a more efficient approach to judging that we may be able to explore in later columns.

It is hoped that at least some of these suggestions will be useful to Judging Chairmen within the District. I’ve broached the idea of setting up some guidelines for Judging Chairs with our District Judging Chairman, Bruce Lind, and to this end I would welcome any additional suggestions you may have on the subject. I see this not as usurping the prerogatives or authority of local Judging Chairmen, but rather as providing them with tools with which to better do their difficult job. Exhibitors, judges, and the viewing public alike should benefit therefrom.