Competitions in gardening in full bloom

  • Aug. 17, 2017 2:41 p.m.

Competition has a place in gardening in the form of bench shows, yard and garden competitions and Communities in Bloom. While competition is not for everyone, it is chance to receive an unbiased opinion on plants, arrangements, landscapes or communities. The best contests are ones that give constructive feedback to the contestants.

Bench Shows, named because items are displayed on a bench, take a lot of volunteer hours to organize, set up and take down. All exhibits are judged by trained judges. To become a certified judge one must take and pass a minimum of 5 judging courses put on by the Alberta Horticultural Association as well as apprentice with a certified judge for at least 2 shows. To keep the certification, judges must take one judging course every five years.

For the most part judges work out of the public eye. This is why the shows often open in the afternoon as does the Red Deer and District Bench show is open to the public at Festival Hall this Thursday, Aug. 17, from 2 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Rimbey’s Bench show is open to the public from 10 to 3 at the Rimbey Drop In Aug. 18.

Aug. 26 and 27 will see the Alberta Gladiola and Dahlia’s society bench show at Bower Mall. Judging starts at 11:00 am in a public area of the mall. The judges will be the ones that are examining the entrees from every angle and scoring their results. The entrees from this show are big, bright and colorful and always worth a visit. Remaining flowers are sold at the end of the show for a nominal fee.

For those wishing to enter, the show booklet is available online at

There are numerous yard and garden competitions throughout Central Alberta. Each competition is slightly different as to what they look for and how the yards or farms are nominated. For the most part, yards and farms are entered by others that think the place is worthy which in itself is an honour.

Regardless of how groups try to narrow the focus of the competition, the judges always struggle as the yards are so different and diverse.

Uncontrollable factors include; age of the landscape, the cost of the landscape and the effort needed in upkeep.

It is easy for the judge to see the effort that has went into maintaining the garden. As judges are human, personal preference does play a part in rating overall design.

A good judging team will have people from different backgrounds

Communities pay a fee to become part of Communities in Bloom. In return two judges visit their community, take notes of what they see and are told, score the community and write a report with observations and suggestions.

Populations, tax base, age and location are all taken into consideration with the scoring. Towns are not judged against other communities but against what the judges believe the town is capable of achieving.

There are six categories: tidiness, urban forest, heritage, landscape, floral, and environmental. The tree divisions within each category are: municipal, Commercial and residential.

Once the numbers are tallied the results are compared with other urban areas of similar size. All entrees are awarded a number of blooms depending on their score at the Provincial CIB Awards night.

This year the Communities in Bloom Awards has joined with the Alberta Horticultural Association’s annual meeting to be held in Lacombe Sept. 22-23.

There are tours on Friday afternoon a number of different speakers on Saturday covering topics from rain gardens, to building a volunteer base to putting together centerpieces and corsages. For more information about the conference look online at

You can register on line at

One does not have to take part in a competition as a gardener but entering or viewing the entrees is always a learning experience.

Linda Tomlinson is a local horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at

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