As part of my role in Trials and Relations, I’m lucky enough to be able to be a judge panel secretary at the RHS shows when called upon, and this year I had the privilege of hitting the big time (for the first time) at the Chelsea Flower Show...
So much preparation, blood sweat and tears goes into the preparation of this day by the show judging team. It’s a great feeling to be part of the inner fold.
Judging of the exhibits is a secret affair. The exhibitors and passers-by cannot hang around when what the judging panel comes around, no - it’s a cloak and dagger affair from the start, in the floral marquee...
It’s a good three hours of walking, steering the panel through the maze of exhibits, ensuring they keep to time, don’t bump into other panels, TV crews or cameras and recording the comments and decisions the judges make at each exhibit.
At each stand a particular judge, who is most knowledgeable on the plants on display, takes the lead and comments what’s great and good about the exhibit followed by what could be better. Every judging criteria is discussed in detail by all and then the individual voting takes place.
Awards are made on a point-based system. Criteria based on such subjects such as; endeavour, plant quality, finish, are awarded by the panel as excellent, very good, good, or satisfactory. This score, after some simple arithmetic is converted to Gold, Silver-Gilt, Silver or Bronze awards. It is checked and double checked before handed in. We can all now breathe…
But it's not over yet. A moderation meeting takes place. A moderation panel always judges the exhibits independently. If there is a notable discrepancy a full-on discussion occurs, and if necessary, the moderation team call for a re-vote on the results submitted. Haggling skills are called for. And then it's over.
So, yes it’s intense, but boy is it fun to be involved. It is exhausting and it’s all hush-hush until the following day when the tired but eager exhibitors gather to know what all their hard efforts have achieved… always hoping it to be a Gold, a Chelsea Gold.