Details in the Flowers Can Indicate Award Winners
THERE COMES A DAY WHEN EVERY orchid novice realizes that all orchid flowers are not created equal. Yet it is fair for the beginner to ask what makes one orchid flower better or more beautiful than another. The AOS and similar organizations have developed judging systems for comparing and evaluating various types of orchids to help quantify the differences between them.
Interestingly, the standards of excellence are similar around the world and a particular flower that achieves high recognition in one judging system is likely to be similarly acclaimed by another. Indeed, basic standards of horticultural appreciation are universal whether for orchids, roses, iris or camellias. Fresh, unblemished blooms are the ideal of every floral judge so those that are aged, as well as those that are deformed or diseased, are quickly eliminated from consideration.
Beyond that, most every floral judge is trained to appreciate flowers that are full in form and clear in color. Generally, secondary characteristics such as ruffling and patterning are considered best when uniformly or symmetrically distributed on the flower. For better or worse, size tends to count when it comes to horticultural evaluations as well. If two blossoms are identical in every way but size, the larger will nearly always triumph.
Orchid judging is more complex than some of the others, however, simply because there are so many different types of orchids. In order to address the unique characteristics of the various major groups and correctly weigh the importance of their key traits, the AOS has developed a sophisticated judging system.
Yet for those hobbyists who are not ready to delve into orchid appreciation at that level, a quick review of the recent AOS flower-quality awards shown here may be instructive. In general, novices will not go too far wrong if they keep the phrase “full, round and flat” in mind when trying to determine which flowers among a large group of similar orchids may be of better quality than the others.
By learning a few characteristics that are common to better quality orchid flowers, the novice can soon begin to develop a better appreciation for the plants in their collections and will begin to understand how the awards are determined at the orchid shows they attend. It is not unusual for the beginner to soon modify their goal from growing and successfully flowering orchids to growing and successfully flowering the highest quality orchids they can acquire.
[NOTE: Normally captions are not in these files, but I’ve copied these captions because of their length.]
 Round flowers with rounded sepals and petals are well demonstrated by Phalaenopsis Chiada Ziv ‘HT104 #43’, HCC/AOS (Sogo Lisa × Sunrise Red Peoker). This hybrid received its award at the Taiwan International Orchid Show in March of 2007. Note that the blossoms are rather flat in profile. The orchid is also a good example of desirable patterning that is dramatic and uniform among the flowers. Grower: Chia Yi University.
 Marriottara (syn. Brassolaeliocattleya) Apache Sunrise ‘Warrior’, AM/AOS Rsc. (Apache Gold × Brassavola nodosa) illustrates the importance of type and breeding in orchid evaluation. While the “Blc.” prefix on most Cattleya alliance hybrids brings to mind full-flowered corsage orchids of a traditional type, this example has rather narrow sepals and petals. These names of its parents may not mean much to a beginner, but to orchid judges and growers with experience it is well appreciated that the popular parent species B. nodosa has a star-shaped flower with narrow segments and that it usually passes that characteristic to its offspring. This award winner’s beautiful lip is inherited through Rsc. Apache Gold, a complex hybrid that traces half of its breeding line to the dramatic species Cattleya dowiana. Grower: Phelps Farm Orchids, Inc.
 Cymbidium Happy Lambert ‘Firefall’, HCC/AOS (Lambert Day × Happy Hooker) sports blossoms of a richly saturated deep red. While it might appear these flowers are too cupped (not flat enough), the shape is typical for a hybrid cymbidium. The flower’s lip beautifully enhances the flowers, a plus for any orchid. Grower: Loren Batchman.