Understand How Competitive Exhibits will be Judged 

This page is one of a set of guidelines aimed at helping competitors.

These BB&O guidelines include extracts from the NAFAS Competitions Manual (2015) and NAFAS Plant Material in all its Forms, presented in a way that makes it easy for competitors to understand.  For official information readers are advised to also refer the following NAFAS publications:

This page describes how exhibits will be judged in a competitive show.  It includes Judging Systems and AwardsJudging CriteriaReasons for Disqualification and Complaints Procedures

Judging Systems and Awards

Under the NAFAS Judging System each class is judged independently and prizes awarded within the class.  Exhibits are compared with each other and not against imaginary perfection.   Awards are given to the best exhibits present, whatever the standard of the class.   1st, 2nd and 3rd third places are awarded, with other exhibits potentially being awarded Very Highly Commended (VHC), Highly Commended (HC) or Commended (C) if the judge deems this to be appropriate.

Other judging systems, such as that used by the RHS, use a points system, where a set of criteria is defined with scores assigned against a standard.  Depending on the score achieved exhibits may be awarded gold, silver-gilt, silver or bronze medals.  Thus in any one class there may be many or no awards at any of the levels.

WAFA shows use a system similar to NAFAS, with ‘Mention’s rather than ‘Commendation’s.  Local Shows may define their own judging system.

A judge’s decision should always be accepted.

The NAFAS Judging System also caters for special awards, which may or may not be awarded as specified in the show schedule:

  • Best use of Colour, Texture, Foliage, Garden Plant Material etc.  All exhibits are eligible for these special awards.
  • Best in Show. This must be a first prize winner in its class. Show schedules may state if any classes are to be excluded from consideration for this award.
  • Runner-Up to Best in Show. This must be a first prize winner in its class, or second prize winner in the same class as Best in Show.
  • Judge’s Choice.  A favourite of the judge even if it did not qualify for a prize.

Other special awards may be awarded at the discretion of the show organiser.  For example: Most innovative, People’s Choice, etc.

Judging Criteria

NAFAS judges will use the following key criteria when assessing exhibits:

  • Adherence to schedule:
    • Does the exhibit meet the requirements specified in the schedule?
  • Predominance of plant material:
    • Does plant material (in any of its forms) predominate in the exhibit?
  • Artistic merit:
    • Does the exhibit include creative and imaginative use of the elements and principles of design as summarised in Appendix D, Ref 1: Elements and Principles of Design?
    • Do all components contribute to the overall harmony?
    • Is the allowed space used well – neither under nor over filled?
  • Interpretation of class title:
    • Is the interpretation clear, appropriate and imaginative?
    • Does the choice and use of plant material clearly aid interpretation of the title?
    • Do other components complement the plant material in a way appropriate to the class title without being dominant?
  • Practical merit:
    • Has the exhibit been effectively staged?
    • Is fresh plant material well-conditioned?
    • Are all other components well finished and in harmony with the rest of the exhibit?  For example: backgrounds, bases and all mechanics should be well finished, effective and not dominant; mechanics, wires etc should be unobtrusive unless used decoratively; coloured/manipulated/processed plant material should make a valid contribution to the design.
  • Distinction:
    • Is this an outstanding exhibit which is emotive, innovative and uplifting?
    • Does it demonstrate originality and artistry?

Reasons for Disqualification

An exhibit in a competitive show may be disqualified if any one of the following exists:

  1. It fails to comply with any specific requirements of the class as stated in the show schedule. For example: omitting a required component; outside the allocated space; etc.  In such cases a judge would write a comment card stating ‘Not According to Schedule’ and give the reason.
  2. It includes artificial plant material, unless specifically allowed by the show schedule.
  3. It includes fresh plant material which will not remain turgid for the duration of the show.  Fresh plant material normally requires its ends to be in water or water retaining material.  Exceptions to this include air plants, cacti, fruits, fungi, grass turf, lichen, moss, succulents, vegetables and long-lasting plant materials (typically tropical material).

The definition of ‘turgid’ is ‘the state of firmness of plant tissue resulting from adequate moisture, causing the plant to be fully expanded’.

Complaints Procedures

NAFAS strives to maintain high standards. If any club or society has a legitimate complaint regarding any National Judge this must be made in writing to the Chairman of the National Judging Committee – contact details can be found on the NAFAS website.

Any comment or complaint about a BB&O Area Judge should be sent via the BB&O Judge Feedback. form