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Friends -- I found the principles of AIS iris judging difficult to
understand for several years, despite having them explained to me more
than once at various shows.  Finally, I did three things that I would
recommend to others who either (1) find the principles of judging
confusing, or (2) are concerned about the element of subjectivity in the

First, I began to bring in and exhibit cultivars (in my case, my own
seedlings), asking individual appraisals of them from the judges after
the formal judging and awards were concluded. Second -- and I would rank
this most important -- I began to serve as a clerk to the judges. 
Accompanying and assisting the judging teams in several shows, I have
gained an appreciation of the principles that guide judging, while being
exposed to "liberal", "conservative" and "harsh" judges. Third, I have
taken both show and field (garden) judges' training, although I do not
intend to serve as a judge. The former concentrates on how the cultivar
should be SHOWN to best advantage, and the latter on what should be
LOOKED FOR in a cultivar -- two very different foci. 

These activities have also given me an exposure to individual judges'
tastes and to wider trends in preferences. 
Because these are human affairs, we find subjectivity to play a role in
judging irises, just as we find it present in our justice system. It is,
in fact, because of the acknowledged natural tendency toward
subjectivity that we establish standards to which we attempt to adhere.
We will never achieve total objectivity, though I believe that in
striving for it we improve the quality of the judgements that we make.

In the case of this iris grower, I believe that gaining an appreciation
of the principles of judging has helped me in evaluating my own
seedlings and, hopefully, will assist me in deciding which directions to

Griff Crump, along the tidal Potomac near Mount Vernon, VA 

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