RHS Judging: Demystified


What is behind the medal?

The RHS medal has long been considered a hallmark in horticultural excellence, providing educational and inspirational value for visitors, the public and the horticultural industry.

Our judging strives to support designers, growers and contractors to achieve the highest accolades in horticulture, all whilst championing the essential role of gardening.

But who, how and what does it take to award an RHS medal?

Who does the judging?

Our judging panels are carefully curated for each of our shows to ensure a broad range of expertise are applied to the judging of every type of exhibit displayed.

Every judge is hand selected by the RHS based on their experience and area of knowledge. Primarily: horticulturalists, garden designers, landscape architects, contractors, head gardeners, journalists or writers, and lecturers.

While the judges are independent of the RHS, they undergo robust training on how to judge using the RHS criteria as well as how to provide constructive feedback to our exhibitors.  

Chris Whiting judges a dahlia
Our panels are made up of the following roles:


  • Provide consistency and impartiality by individually overviewing and appraising all exhibits throughout judging.
Judging Chairs
  • Lead the judging panel in discussions on each exhibit.
  • Provide feedback to exhibitors after results are announced.
Assessors (garden judging only):
  • Led by the Assessing Chair, assess the gardens the day before judging to provide a recommended award for the panel to discuss.
RHS Secretary
  • Manages route and timing of judging for designated panel.
  • Takes note of discussions and records judging results.
  • Accompanies Chair during feedback.
Panel Judge
  • Judges the exhibits with strict use of the RHS criteria.
  • Attends moderation to discuss exhibits judged and provide additional comment as required.

What do we judge?

Each category requires a different criteria and different panel. Across our shows we judge:

  • BORDERS  and POCKET PLANTING (smaller garden schemes)

The Judging team conduct judging at 10 shows across the season:

RHS Botanical Art & Photography Show
RHS Orchid Show
RHS Malvern Spring Festival
RHS Chelsea Flower Show
RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival
RHS Flower Show Tatton Park
Malvern Autumn Show
RHS Garden Rosemoor Flower Show
RHS Garden Wisley Flower Show
RHS Garden Hyde Hall Flower Show

Camelia judging
Show Gardens

Across 9 sections, the RHS show gardens are graded Excellent (4), Very Good (3), Good (2), Satisfactory (1) and Poor (0) using the RHS Garden Criteria. The highest amount of points scored automatically wins the Best in Show. But, in the event of a tie, the judges must conduct a second, blind vote. The garden with the highest amount of points scored for construction, will where appropriate, be awarded with the Best Construction award.

Judging criteria

  1. REALISATION OF THE CLIENT’S BRIEF: clarity and delivery.
  2. AMBITION: atmosphere, originality, impact.
  3. OVERALL IMPRESSION: attention to detail, polish & dressing.
  4. DESIGN, LAYOUT, PLAN OF GARDEN: dimension, scale, unity
  5. DESIGN, 3D AND SPATIAL COMPOSITION: mass, void, volume, balance.
  6. CONSTRUCTION: quality of build and finish.
  7. PLANTING DESIGN: visual impact, composition, colour, texture, form.
  8. PLANTING ASSOCIATIONS: horticultural accuracy, relevance, cultural requirements.
  9. ​PLANTING IMPLEMENTATION: quality, plant health, density of planting.

What is a Client’s Brief, and why is it so important?

The Client’s Brief is written by a designer before exhibiting a garden at an RHS Show. It’s the one of the most important elements of  judging because it outlines what the designer intends to create.
The intention of the client’s brief is to encourage designers to demonstrate their ability to execute a garden that not only fits the brief but is also fit for purpose. This is a real-life practice for designers who regularly build briefs based on their client’s needs.

For the purposes of Show gardens, the client is imagined by the designer. The designer is free to determine the style, design and context of the garden. So, a garden can look very beautiful, but it might not necessarily score a high medal if it hasn’t achieved what it was set out to do.

Floral Exhibits

Across 3 sections, the RHS floral exhibits in the Floral Marquee are graded Excellent (4), Very Good (3), Good (2), Satisfactory (1) and Poor (0) using the RHS Floral Criteria.

Judging criteria

  1. PLANTS: Horticultural relevance, range, identification, health, quality, colour and texture.
  2. ​OVERALL IMPRESSION: Finish, design, creativity, impact.

ENDEAVOUR: Level of difficulty, originality, planning and sourcing, curation.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.