Red Deer & District Garden Club

***The online tips main reference is the Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development publication "Judging Standards for Horticulture Shows". The online material has been reproduced/adapted with permission. If you wish to obtain a hard copy of the complete publication please visit$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex19?opendocument. No part of the online tips may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. Permission for the online tips was granted by Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development for the web site only and does not extend to any other format.


Flowers should be cut in the late afternoon when food reserves are at their highest. Take a bucket of water out in the garden with you.

Hardening flowers after cutting is important. Remove all foliage that would be below the water line, to reduce the potential for bacteria to thrive. Cut stems at a 45° angle and place the cut flowers in lukewarm water (43 C) for 12 to 24 hours before exhibiting. Put the bucket in a cool, dark place. Many flowers, such as roses, increase in size by a quarter to a third during hardening.

The bottom 1.5cm (.5 in) of all stems should be cut off after hardening.

Floral preservative (available at craft stores and florists) helps prolong the life of flowers on display as they contain some nutrients as well as fungicide. It also helps keep red flowers from becoming bluish and tend to prevent shattering. Aspirin and Vitamin B1 are of no value as preservatives in prolonging cut flower life.

The stem end of flowers with milky or sticky sap should be seared over a flame or placed in boiling water for several minutes before adding to the arrangement. Otherwise they may not properly take up moisture and the sap can dirty the water.

Woody stemmed plants will take up water better if you slice up into them 12 to 15 cm (5 to 6 in.) from the base with a clean, sharp knife or have the lower 8 to 10 cm (3 to 4in.) crushed with a hammer. This also applies to chrysanthemums, lilies, stocks and hollyhocks. Some arrangers also remove a strip of bark from the outside of woody stems.

Depth of water in display containers makes no difference. Three cm (2 in.) of water is sufficient, except for carnations. The only value of deeper water is in reviving wilted flowers. Cold water, or even ice water, may help retain freshness on the show bench. Use thoroughly clean containers and clean water.

To prolong the life of the flowers, change the water daily, recut the stem ends, and keep the flowers in a cool room at night. If a preservative is used in the water then no changing of the water or recutting of stems is necessary.

When cut flowers are judged, the qualities that are considered are listed below:

  • Condition - Includes uniformity, substance, free from bruise and blemish
  • Form - Include uniformity, proper maturity, proper shape and proper petalage
  • Stem & Foliage - Includes uniformity, strength and/or straightness, foliage quality, size and proportion
  • Color - Includes uniformity, intensity, clarity and brilliance
  • Size - Includes uniformity, proper size for variety

When dahlias are judged, these qualities are considered:
  • Fresh, clean flower heads having a clean, bright color. Ray flowers all formed the same and of good substance; distance between ray flowers the same; flower heads true to type on a well proportioned (length and diameter) stem. Flower head facing at 45° angle except in Ball, Miniature ball and Pompon types. Shown at peak of development, centre full and tight in fully double forms. The first set of leaves beneath the flowerhead should be left attached.
  • Points are given for color, form, substance, size, stem, foliage, bloom position, uniformity and distinction.

When gladiolus are judged, these qualities are considered:

Clarity, saturation, harmony and uniformity of color. Beauty and appeal, floret form, and substance and texture. All florets should be clean and fresh. Spikes should be well grown and of good quality.

Unlike Gladiolus the genus Lilium is judge with little emphasis put upon the number of flowers which are open. A stem with but a single open flower in perfect condition will surpass one with more flowers open but not all in prime condition.

Points are given for condition, vigor, placement on stem, substance of flowers and color of flowers.

Hybrid tea and hybrid perpetual specimen blooms should be grown disbudded for show purposes, but the polyanthas, floribunds and grandifloras are best exhibited as naturally grown flowers without disbudding except for removal of crown buds. The former types are exhibited as specimen blooms and the latter as sprays. All single flowered cultivars are best exhbited as naturally grown. Any of the above types may be exhibited in a specimen bloom class provided they are disbudded. Miniatures may be exhibited as a single stem, a spray or single bloom.

Species and shrub roses are best exhibited as naturally grown without disbudding.

Disbudding of the hybrid teas and perpetuals (including their climbing forms) consists of pinching out the tiny side buds with thumb and finger as early as possible in their development. Removing these buds in their early stages will leave no scars. Roses showing evidence of recent disbudding will lose points in judging. However, failure to disbud exhibits in speciment classes will disqualify an entry, since side buds count as extra blooms.

Good grooming is very important, especially for specimen blooms. A blemished petal may be deftly removed before exhibiting, if doing so does not destroy the character fo the bloom. Petals may be arranged a little better through the carful use of a small camel-hair brush or other such instrument. No amount of grooming, however, can compensate for poor quality blooms.

The stage at which a rose should be cut for exhibition purposes is difficult to state. It depends partly on the weather, which affects the rate at which a rose will open and how long it will last as a cut flower. Normally, roses are cut the day before exhibiting, to allow hardening. The important factor is that the blooms be of top quality and at the proper stage of maturity at the time of judging.

When specimen roses are judged, these qualities are considered:

  • Freedom from spray or dust residues, and disease or insect injury, clean, healthy foliage; bloom half to three-quarters open (single blooms fully open); symmetrical in outline, with a well formed centre; color fresh and brilliant according to variety; good substance; stem adequate to hold bloom upright and of a length and thickness to be in proportion to bloom; thorns left undisturbed.

When spray roses are judged, these qualities are considered:

  • Same considerations apply as for specimen blooms; as well as balanced spacing of blooms, with a good number of flowers in prime stage of development and remaining buds in graduate stages of development.

Points are deducted for imperfections, which include:

  • Failure to disbud specimen bloom or evidence of recent disbudding; blemished petals, blooms opened past their primed, poor substance, lack of freshness; dirty of unhealthy foliage; lack of adequate foliage for the bloom; thorns removed.

Points to consider for sweet peas include:
  • Blooms should all face in one direction, be absolutely fresh, clean and of the color typical of the variety or cultivar.
  • The total length of the spike should be in proportion to the flower head. For an average spike this length would be about 38 cm (15 in.) but a large spike with five blooms could be as long as 45 cm (18 in.)
  • Diameter of the stem is also important in relation to the overall spike. The stem should appear strong but not coarse in relation to the flower head.
  • The more fully open blooms that a spike contains, the better, but a good three-bloom spike is better than a mediocre four, and a good four better than a mediocre five.

When sweet peas are judged, these qualities are considered:

Condition, substance and colors of blooms, form and placement of blooms, size and number of blooms, length and condition of stem, effectiveness of staging, color harmony and fragrance.


Even though flowers displayed as bouquets in vases involve a certain amount of arranging they do not represent floral arrangements unless each element is placed to produce a design. Good taste in choice of cultivars and color is necessary. Colors should harmonize effectively. The purpose for which the bouquet is made should be stated.

When bouquest and vases of flowers are judged, these qualities are considered:

Condition, color harmony, proportion and balance, suitability for purpose indicate and originality


The assembly of floral arrangements has been defined as "the art of organizing elements according to the principles of design to attain beauty, simplicity, expression and harmony". In floral arrangements, the container and any accessories (figurines, candlesticks, etc.) are an integral part of the arrangement.

The show committee will specify which materials may and may not be used. Fresh, dried or artificial flowers may be used unless a particular type is specified. Materials such as cotoneaster, nanking cherry, peony, goutweed and sprigs of juniper can be tastefully incorporated into floral arrangements.

Emphasis should be placed on arrangements suitable for use in the home (centre piece for dining room table) or for special occasions, such as birthdays or anniversaries. The use of weeds should not be used in flower arrangements. They may be used in dried and pressed flower displays.

When floral arrangements are judged, these qualities are considered:

Design, color harmony, originality, suitability to occasion or purpose (if stated), texture harmony of materials, relation to container and condition of flowers and foliage.


Entries in both foliage and flowering classes should be free from infestations of insects or diseases. Note that there are separate classes provided for foliage plants, flowering plants, cacti and succulents. A foliage plant by definition is grown and marketed as a plant with green or decorative foliage.

For foliage and flowering plants these qualities should be considered:

  • In both foliage and flowering plant classes, foliage should be clean, health, of good color, and free from any signs of disease, injury or mechanical injury.
  • They should be exhibited in clean, attractive pots
  • Plant size and pot size should be in proper proportion.
  • Preference is usually given to rarity of species or to species that are more difficult to grow
  • Bonus points could be given for correctly identifying the plant exhibited.

When foliage plants are judged, these qualities are considered:

Symmetrical and correct form for cultivar; strong and proportionate stems or stems; abundant, glossy green foliage or bright, clear, vivid-colored foliage according to the type; foliage free from residues such as plant shine or dormant oil products, and from insect, disease, and mechanical damage; absence of flowers, proper proportion of pot to plant.

When flowering plants are judged, these qualities are considered:

Symmetrical development; proper proportion of pot to plant; lush foliage of color for cultivar; foliage and flowers free from blemishes; flowers born toward centre above foliage; strong flower stems and clean flower color.


Points to consider include:

  • Size of plant is not as important as freshness and symmetry
  • Plants should be in the centre of the pot
  • Plant size and pot size should be in proper proportion

When African violets are judges, these qualities are considered:

Leaf pattern or form, floriferousness (typical of cultivar), condition, size of bloom (typical of cultivar) and color of bloom (typical of cultivar).


Points to consider include:

Well-balanced growth and development, good size for the species; freedom from injury including damaged spines; if bloom is present (characteristic of some succulents) it should not be disturbed; other things being equal, a cactus exhibited with flowers is preferred to one with no flowers.

When judged, these qualities are considered:

Condition, difficulty of cultivation, conformity to type (age and size), and rarity.


Fruits displayed should be of good quality, which would include appropriate texture, absence of fibre, presence of sugars, flavors and aroma. The fruit should be uniform, meaning as much as like each other as possible. They should be free from blemishes, bruising, insect damage or any other damaging physical condition which the grower could have prevented. The size should be large providing is does not negatively affect other standards. One point to consider is that the major objective of the show is education and as such, the cultivar of the fruit should be named or if it was grown from the seed of a know cultivar, it should then be designated as a "seedling of".

When judged, these qualities are considered:

Quality, uniformity, condition, color, size and named.

Apples should be firm, crisp, with stem attached but neatly trimmed and the fruit wiped. Dessert apples should be sweet while sourness (high acid) is acceptable in cooking apples.

Cherries should be full ripe, soft but not bleeding (leaking juice), shown wiped with stems removed. Preference is given to sweet, flavorful fruit.

Raspberries -bright colors are preferred to dark which may be a sign of overmaturity. Stems and calyx are left intact, fruit is ripe yet not excessively soft. There should be no signs of bleeding and the flavor should be full and sweet.

Rhubarb -long and large diameter petioles are preferred provided this size does not adversely affect quality. Quality considerations are relative freedom from fibre as indicated by snapping, and a sweet, relatively nonacid taste. A red exterior and interior is preferred to green. Leaf should be trimmed to a fan shape 2.5 cm from the petiole. The petiole is harvested by pulling rather than cutting with only the loose tissue at the base trimmed away.

Strawberries should have stem and calyx left intact. Berries will be without catfacing (deep creases) or hard noses. Bright red on the exterior and interior is preferred. The core should be small and inconspicuous. Fruit should be full ripe yet not mushy or bleeding. Flavor should be full and sweet.

Fruits not listed above will be judged on their own merit. Judging will be done based on what the fruit would normally be used for. So for eating purposes, the fruit should have good texture with full flavor, sweetness and aroma.

For fruit collections, no accessories should be used.

The following traits should be considered when exhibiting vegetables. Just as it is important for fruits, the quality is an important criteria for vegetables. They should be fresh and free from insects, disease, soil and mechanical damage. Specimens should be as uniform as possible in color, maturity, shape and size. Vegetables should be moderate in size and true to type. The colors should be bright, clear and attractive.

When a display of vegetables is judged, these qualities are considered:

Arrangement and attractiveness, quality and condition, number of kinds (or cultivars) and educational value (correct and suitable labeling).

Beans -pods should be of uniform good length with color typical for the cultivar. Ideally they should be clean and free from blemishes. Pods should also be crisp, fresh, fleshing and free from stringiness and fibre. The stem and calyx must be left attached. Long, straight pods are preferred over pods that have a curved shape or are flat. When judged quality, uniformity, condition, color and type are considered.

Broad Beans -pods should be large, fresh, well filled with thin skins and tender seeds. Each pod should have all seeds present with no aborted ovules. Cultivars with green seeds are preferred. (Not to be confused with scarlet runner beans). When judged quality, uniformity, condition and size are considered.

Beets Long or cylindrical - Diameter at top 3 to 5 cm (1.5 to 2 in.). The main root should be clipped to reasonable length. It should be smooth and without any side roots or insect damage. The interior and exterior color should be dark red. The crown or beet should be free from scabs, splits, scaling, and any discoloration. Tops should be clipped 1 cm (0.5 in.) above the crown. Globe or round - Diameter 5 to 7 cm (2 to 3 in.); otherwise, same as for long cultivars. Many colors are also available, however the red is preferred over yellow or white cultivars. When judged color, uniformity, condition, quality and type are considered.

Broccoli The formation of the head should be smooth, and show dense uniform development. The heads should not be faded in color or show yellow which indicates overmaturity. Ideal color is a blueish-green. The stem should be at least 10 cm (4 in.) long and branch near the head. There should not be any crack in the cut end of the stem nor any leaves growing in the head. Any lower side-shoots should be neatly trimmed. When judged, color, condition, quality, uniformity, size and type are considered.

Cabbage Green, red and savoy - The heads should be uniform, firm and of moderate size, 12 to 20 cm (5 to 8 in.) in diameter. They should be free from pest injury and other blemishes, with stem trimmed to a butt and with one or two wrapper leaves retained. Savoys should be as well matured as possible. The crumple should be fine. The same amount of firmness is not expected in savoys as in ordinary types of cabbage. Red cabbage should comply with the general requirements of the green cultivars, but should be as dark red as possible. All types when cut should have a short core with thin leaf bases which are closely spaced. Green types are most preferred followed by red and then savoy. Round types are also preferred over flat and pointed types. When judged, quality, condition, uniformity, color and type are considered.

Carrots Long - Should be at least 17 cm (7 in.) in length or over. They should be uniform, slender and clearly pointed with roots trimmed to a reasonable length. Roots should be washed or carefully brushed clean. Carrots should be free from sunburn, discoloration, side roots, and pest or mechanical injuries. The core should be as small or inconspicuous as possible and flesh should be tender, sweet, and of bright color. Lenticels should be shallow and free of soil. Tops should be trimmed 1 cm above the crown. Chantenay types should not be exhibited as their broad shoulders are undesirable. Intermediate - Should not be over 17 cm (7 in.) in length. Carrots should be stump-rooted. Other qualifications as for long class. Short - Should not be over 7 cm (3 in.) in length. Carrots should be stump-rooted. Other qualifications as for long class. When judged, color, uniformity, quality, condition, and type are considered.

Cauliflower The heads should be 12 to 20 cm (5 to 8 in.) in diameter, compact, smooth and regular in form. They should be uniform in size, color and preparation, with good depth of curd. There should be no green leaves showing through. The curds should be pure white in color. The stalk and larger leaves should be removed and any remaining should be trimmed to 1 cm (0.5 in.) above the level of the head. When judged, color, condition, uniformity, quality, size and type are considered.

Sweet Corn Ears should be uniform in size and form, with good kernel development from tip to base. The ears should be of fair size, free from blemishes, of clear and bright color, and uniform according to cultivar. The kernels should be large, uniform in size with rows straight and uniformly spaced. The kernels should have a milky texture indicating an ideal stage of maturity. The stalk should be cut smooth. The ear should have one - third of the husk removed and the silk should be either removed or carefully groomed. When judged, quality, uniformity, condition, color and size are considered.

Cucumbers Slicing - These cucumbers should have 1 cm (0.5 in.) length stem left attached, be free of blemishes and be of uniform size and color. They should be of uniform shape from stem to blossom end and not have very much taper toward the blossom end. American types should have a minimum number of seeds and be at least 15 cm (6 in.) in length, European types should not have seeds and be at least 25 cm (10 in.) in length. Pickling - These should be uniform, of good green color and be an average of 5 to 7 cm (2 to 3 in.) long. As well, these should not have very much taper toward the blossom end. Cucumbers should be clean and minus the withered blossom. Spines should be left intact and be black in color. A 1 cm (0.5 in.) length stem should remain attached. When judged, quality, condition, uniformity, color, type and size are considered.

Onion Cooking (yellow, red and white) - All onions including Spanish type cultivars should be uniformly hard as well as uniform in color, size, shape and maturity. Roots and tops (1 cm, 0.5 in.) above the bulb should be removed. The bulb should be either jumbo in diameter (8cm, 3 in. over), or standard in diameter (less than 8cm, 3 in.) and round in shape. A cross-section should reveal a large number of rings that are as narrows as possible and closely set. Pickling - Round bulbed silver skins are preferred. They should be firm and well matured, not over 2 cm (1 in.) in diameter, fairly uniform, with skins clear, bright and dry. Tops and roots should be trimmed to 1 cm (0.5 in.) Green bunching - These should be clean with loose skin removed, roots trimmed to 1 cm (0.5 in.) in length and tops trimmed to an even length. When judged, quality, uniformity, condition, size and type are considered.

Peas The pods should be large, fresh and uniform. They should not show any blemishes or disease. All pods should have a full complement of peas that are large, clean, whole, and uniform in size, with a good dark green color. Peas should be well developed, sweet, tender and full-flavored. The stem and calyx must be left attached to all pods. When judged, quality, uniformity, condition, color and size are considered.

Potatoes Tubers should be brushed or washed clean. They should be uniform in size and shape. Tubers should have few and shallow eyes, and be free of any blemishes or disease. There should not be any greening of the tubers. When judged, condition, quality, uniformity, type color and size are considered.

Squash Summer - A 1 cm (0.5 in.) in length stem must be left attach to the fruit. The skin must be smooth, unbroken and uniformly colored over entire fruit. The Italian type is preferred and ideal size is 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 in.) in length, young fruit with tender skin is most desirable. Italian (zucchini) and vegetable marrow - Squash should be uniform in size, color, shape, and depth of flesh. For best quality the fruit should be 5 to 29 cm in length and there should be no evidence of skin punctures or blemishes. Straight-neck - Preferred next to Italian types. Requirements are the same as for Italian. Swelling at base of fruit should be moderate. Crookneck - Should be 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 in.) in length, golden in color and moderately crooked. Swelling at base of fruit should be moderate. Scalloped or patty pan - Should be roughly 10 cm (4 in.) in diameter, uniform and of clear color. Fruits are truest to type when the scallops are deep. Mature Italian and vegetable marrow - Should be 30 to 50 cm (12 to 20 in.) in length. Fruit should be uniform, cylindrical, smooth, firm and slightly ribbed. They should be devoid of blemishes and have a 1 cm (0.5 in.) stem left attached. The green and cream varieties should have skin that is firm. Winter - The acorn, followed by the buttercup and hubbard are the principal long-keeping winter squash and are preferred in that order. Fruits should be uniform in size, form and color with a 1 cm (0.5 in.) stem attached. They should be free of blemishes. Warted hubbard cultivars should be evenly well warted and should be 25 to 30 (10 to 12 in.) in diameter. Colors of all types should be typical of the cultivar with a minimum of white (yellow-belly) on the under side. When judged, quality, uniformity, condition color and size are considered.

Tomatoes All fruit should be smooth, uniform in size, shape and color, and free from blemishes. Fruit should be displayed with stems left on. Cherry fruit should be less than 2.5 cm (1 in.) in diameter with large fruit exceeding the 2.5 cm diameter. The more globular forms are preferred. When cut in cross-section the flesh should be thick. The number of sections should be numerous and the amount of pulp and seeds limited. When judged, quality, uniformity, condition, color, size and type are considered.