Orchid Wise

Preparing your Plant for Judging – Winning Advice!

You won’t impress the judges on a Cymbidium Orchid judging panel, or anyone else for that matter, unless you present an attractive plant. No matter how good the flowers are. Below we provide tips from the pro’s for preparing your plant for judging.

Benching a prize winning plant at your local club, or a national show, requires early preparation.

When you see a spike on a plant you are planning to show, separate the plant. Give it some space and ensure it is adequately fed and watered, but still receives bright filtered light. Ideally, place it under cover so there is no chance of having the spike or buds damaged by rain, hail or even mice and insects etc.

As the flower spike develops, tie it close to a stake to ensure it grows straight and tall. Use clips or green twist wire for best results. If you wish to, you can also use a yoyo to assist and encourage the spike to grow straight and tall. Check out our simple guide for staking a spike here.

As the buds poke out of the spike sheath, place the plant in a more shaded area so that it receives less indirect light. This is especially important if the plant is a soft colour, like white or yellow, even green. Bright light on white buds ruins the pristine colour and you will end up with yellowing or even some greening. Even a yellow or green flower will benefit from less light so the sun doesn’t bleach colour out of it.

Once the spike has finished growing vertically cut the stake off to the height of the main spike, or a little lower. A judge will deduct points if they see a stake rising up above the top of a spike. It’s not attractive.

Put Your Best Orchid Forward!

Before showing, remove the sheath around the spike and clean off any remaining untidy pieces.

It is also an idea to top up your pot with some bark to make it look nice and fresh.

The biggest job before benching a plant though will be cleaning up the bulbs. Remove all brown or dead matter from around the bulbs. Tidy up everything so that the plant and bulbs are nice and green and really attractive.

Carefully read, and be aware of the Judging Regulations

There could be different requirements depending on where you are showing, so be aware of the guidelines for showing/presentation. Check your local area’s association for a copy of the guidelines.

Generally speaking, the plant’s inflorescence should be self supporting. If the ties/clips are removed, the inflorescence shouldn’t collapse or buckle etc.

The Australian Orchid Council Judges Manual states that only one tie is allowed (one tie below the first flower).

Other clubs/associations may allow two ties (one below the first flower and one above). It is also unacceptable to place a tie any further up on the spike lest the plant be disregarded for judging.

Final Preparations

On the day of the competition, trim back any leaves with brown/black tips. Die back will cost you judging points. So grab a clean pair of scissors and trim the tips back at an angle. The judges will notice they have been trimmed, but an angle trim looks better than a square trim, and it’s better than black tips. This keeps the leaves clean and presentable.

Place the label of the plant at the ‘front’ of the pot, to indicate and show off the ‘front’ of the plant…..it’s best side.

Lastly, give the leaves a clean with a solution of diluted milk to give them a nice sheen, and clean the pot up so it’s not dirty.

Label your entry correctly and clearly with your show number when you enter it. If the plant is a first flowering seedling, label it as such. Attach the label using blu-tack to make it easy to remove for photographing.

Some extra time and effort in the weeks before you enter your Cymbidium orchid in a competition will make all the difference and show the other club members you mean business when you bench a plant!

These tips might just get you over the line compared to someone else who hasn’t taken the time or effort to prepare a nice plant. Preparing your plant for judging can actually be therapeutic! Give it a try and have some fun.

Then you are all set. Bench your plant with confidence, and good luck!

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