The National Begonia Society




Michael Richardson  2017
My first experience as a trainee judge.

Friday 1st September – DUNDEE FLOWER SHOW

Important warning - Please be aware that the following views, opinions and observations are mine and mine alone.

The journey -
It was Friday 00:30am when I picked my mother up and headed north to Dundee, and after driving for 4½ hours through the early hours of the morning we found ourselves having a brew outside McDonalds near the entrance to Camperdown Park, Dundee where the show was being held.
I had arranged to meet Barry Walker and John Chiswell here at 07:00am as they had travelled up the day before and stayed over at the Hilton Hotel on the outskirts of Dundee.
As I was waiting, my mobile went off and it was Ian Donaldson asking if I had arrived and if so where was I!!!  When I told him I was near McDonalds he said he would be there in a couple of minutes and then asked if I could get him a “caramel latte”. So I went in expecting to be laughed out of the building, you could have knocked me down with a feather when I found out that they did sell Ian’s drink of choice.

So Ian and I were stood in the car park having a drink and chatting, when George Thompson got out of a car that had been parked there since I had arrived, he had got there early to do some work in the Shows exhibiter's marquee then went for a sleep in his car. He disappeared into McDonalds and a few minutes reappeared in a shirt, tie and jacket - he didn’t need a phone box to get changed in like Superman would have.
George and Ian set off to get to the show and the judges meeting point for 07:30hrs while I waited for Barry & John – they arrived not long after and then we also made are way to the show and the judges meeting point.

 The judges meeting -
Judges -      Ian Donaldson, Barry Walker & John Chiswell.
Stewards – George Thompson & David Nimmo.
We had to meet in the Floral marquee, where tea, coffee and biscuits were served.

Each “judging group” received an envelope that contained all the relevant judging paraphernalia required. We were also assigned a young Spanish lady called Gonzales to help us, or as we were told “tongue in cheek” that she was to keep an eye on our unruly mob – and looking at us to be fair they were probably right...

At 8am we made are way to our marquee and to the Begonia section where the Scottish Begonia Society had their Society stand (see picture to the left) and just to the right of the stand the Begonia Classes sat staged awaiting to be judged.

Let judging commence
First to be judged was Class 354 British Championship 12 Board.
To start with we ensured the minimum number of different varieties required were staged on each entry, this class required no less than 9 distinct cultivars.
Ian had some A4 sheets with 12 circles on to represent the 12 cut blooms.  Then starting from one end of Class 354 we began judging each 12 board by assigning an A4 sheet to it and then proceeded by noting any visual signs of handling damage or faults in the flower to each “circle” that represented that flower on the board.

The obvious signs - pictureto the right
·      Damage to petals.
·     Petals that have edged.
 ·     Blotching.

      ·     Warts - causing gaps. 
·    Curled / looped petals.
·   "Missing" petals. 
·     Is the bloom round in profile. 
·    As well as signs of disease - for example mildew.

Then all the blooms were checked for having either a rosebud as per the picture to the left or camellia centre as the picture to the right shows – and if they hadn’t then N/c (No Centre) M/c (multiple centres) was recorded on the relevant circle that represents that flower.

Some flowers staged had reached a size or age where they had lost their shape even though they had no damage on them – the term “cabbage” (this is not meant in derogatory way) it’s a term used to describe a flower like this.

We also checked for shallow blooms that had cups stacked up under them like scaffolding so the bloom is at the height of the other blooms on the board.
The staging was set up where you could walk down the back of the cut bloom boards, this gave the judge a chance to check for any damaged blooms that had been strategically placed to try and hide any damage or faults. Not all shows have the staging benches set up like this.
One thing that stood out to me was the way the exhibitors had staged their blooms and I realized how important it was to stage your flowers. This means that each row of blooms are level and that the centres of the blooms look you in the eye when you view them.

Now one exhibitor had staged a bloom with the stem sitting on the board at the back of the cup. After judging had finished I spoke to Robert Bryce that an exhibitor had missed the cup whilst staging a bloom and that it was still “standing up”, however I was amazed when Robert said had he missed it!!!!! Or had he done it on purpose as it was the only way he could “sit" the bloom properly on the cup as he knew this variety would stand a while at least till after judging had finished before it started to collapse. I had never heard or seen an exhibitor do this before.

So I thought of how many times I have struggled to get a flower to sit properly on a cup – so what would happen if you found yourself in this predicament and you could not sit the bloom on the cup properly and you were either going to damage it by over handling or through frustration - then could you wrap the bottom of the flower stem in wet cotton wool and just sit it on the board at the back of the cup…. And if you did do this, could you be penalized by a judge for poor staging or improper staging!!!!

Under the Scottish Begonia Society Rules blooms cannot be lifted and carried around to compare against another bloom as you can under the National Begonia Society Rules –
However we were told a story after judging about a grower who once had a flower with a knackered guard petal so he took it off and removed another guard petal off a bloom of the same variety then cellotaped it to the bloom he took the original guard petal off……
So I tried it and believe me it’s a lot easier than I thought it would be, see the picture to the right, and yes I did use a different variety on purpose to make it stand out more.

And finally all the “marks” on each sheet were added up as the top 3 places were close.
Tony Shephardson had taken 1st place
 (picture  to the left),
 closely followed by Phil Champions board
(picture  to the right)

Once we judged the 12 boards then we did the 6 Cut bloom class and the rest of the cut bloom classes.
Sadly the Pot Plant Classes were not really supported and there were only a couple of Pot Plants exhibited.

Next we had to pick the best blooms to be presented with the rosette for that colour and type.
Since we could not pick a bloom up it was difficult to compare bloom against bloom when choosing the best in the individual colour classes or best bloom overall when looking at 2 blooms at either ends of the show benches…. Ian Donaldson came up with a good idea that was to take a picture of a bloom with his mobile then “carry” the bloom so it can be compared at the side of the other one.

 One thing I did think that would cause judges issues was the fact that a lot of the blooms we see on the show benches are of “amateur.raisings”. What I am trying to say is a raiser does not announce a new raising to the world via the website or bulletin and let everyone know what colour or type it is - for example bicolour, picotee or a solid colour.
So the first time a judge could come across a new variety is when he is judging, now this could cause problems when judging individual colour or “type” classes – for example the picture H on the right of a new seedling on Phil Champions 6 Board.
 Another variety is  Geoff Bisley as it is classified on the website as a yellow red bicolour – yet I have seen it exhibited as this and also as a pure yellow – if this is displayed as a pure yellow does it get down pointed for being poorly grown as it's technically the wrong colour!!!!! I will leave that debate for another day. 

Now there were 4 Classes for Rex’s, Species, Pendula and Multiflora non-stop or other small flowering tuberous begonias.

Class 352 One pot Begonia Species was won by Mrs Mairi Hamilton, see picture I to the left and the picture to the right shows Mr Bruce Mcload's 3rd place winning exhibit.


When judging certain classes we had to get advice on whether a plant had been correctly entered in a class.
 I could certainly understand how innocent mistakes could be made by judges who do not “specialize” in growing species, hybrids or rex’s. The one man I know who is an expert in this field is none other than Terry Tasker, but it would be I suppose unfair to ask him to judge at all our Societies shows where there are exhibits in these classes.
Finally we judged the class 353, Display of Begonias in an area 1.22m x 1.22m any type of begonia allowed. Ferns allowed –
This class was interesting because of the different types of “begonias” used to construct each exhibit which led to some discussions amongst the judges. The class asked for a display, which left the 3 judges with slightly different views on what constituted a better display. After quite a few discussions the decision was finally made.
1st place went to Mr Bruce McLead as per the picture  to left and a very close 2nd went to Mr Robert Nelson whose display is pictured  to the right.

After judging had finished a good natured conversation was had with Terry Tasker who had a difference of opinion on the final placing – again it was another individual’s interpretation of what he thinks makes a better display.

Other issues encountered -

We did have a few issues with condensation dripping from off the marquee roof and falling on to staged blooms so we had to ask David Nimmo “our” steward on more than one occasion to move boards back so they were out of the way of falling drops of condensation as you can see illustrated via the picture to the left.


Recording and issuing the place cards -
Once we had finished judging a class George Thompson and Gonzales were following us around and they were filling all the relevant forms out and recording all the relevant information and putting the winning cards out – see the picture to the right.

Judges vs Exhibitors -
When the judging was completed 1 or 2 exhibitors who had been waiting patiently came over to see how they had done.

I would be lying if I said that “some” growers had a query or two about the “judging decisions” and to be fair all 3 judges stood by their decisions and did explain their decisions with regards to the growers queries, and I think they were happy with the explanations – discussions in full flow as shown in the picture  to the left.


The evening -
Peter Mathews arranged for us to meet up and go for a meal at a pub about a mile up the road from the show.
Bob & Alison Robertson, Ian & Lynda Donaldson, Robert & Joan Bryce, Barry Walker, John Chiswell, Robert Nelson, David Nimmo, George Thompson, Phil Champion, Terry Tasker and finally my mother and me, we had a great meal and there was an awful lot of friendly banter and mickey taking throughout the evening.

Now I knew my mother wanted to see the Kelpies the following day on the way home, but during the meal she said she wanted to see the Falkirk Wheel as well. I did try and protest but I was out voted, I was surprised how many individuals sided with mother.

The journey home -
On the way home we visited the Falkirk Wheel as it’s the only one in the world and it was impressive as you can see by the picture to the right– now for those doubters thinking I never took my mother, then I have two witnesses who we met there, none other than Robert and Joan Bryce – talk about it being a “small world” as they say.

Then we drove on to the Kelpies as you can see by the picture to the left my mother got to visit and meet them at long last.



Firstly I would like to thank Jim Evans for suppyling the photographs because I had forgotten to take my camera with me.
Secondly I would like to thank everyone we met whilst we were at Dundee Flower Show, as they made it a great day out.

Finally a picture of Tony Shepherdson and his Winning 12 Board