How yards are judged for competitions

Most people look at yards, gardens flowers and farmsteads with the thought are they pleasing to the eye.

Most people look at yards, gardens flowers and farmsteads with the thought are they pleasing to the eye.

The people who judge such things do so with a list of criteria given to them by the contest organizers. Judging yards for an urban competition or a rural beautification awards is about who has the best property on a given day.

Evaluating for Communities in Bloom takes into consideration work involved as much as the outcome on a given day. Both are always fun and interesting but it is rarely easy. Judging is work.

Gardens are as individual as their owners. Each garden is a reflection of the owner’s taste and commitment of time and money. A number of yards might be in the same category, in age and or size, but that is where the similarities end. One garden can contain a multitude of shrubs, trees and a soft green lawn, while the next is filled with flower baskets, vegetables and fruit.

The only way to decide which yard is best is to rate all yards on the scoring card and add them up at the end of the tour.

Judging for Communities in Bloom is somewhat different. The score sheet is filled out as with the beautification awards, but that is the only similarity.

The purpose with Community in Bloom is to look at all aspects of the community: businesses, municipality; residential and community involvement, and what they contribute in each of the following categories: tidiness, environmental action, heritage conservation, urban forest, landscape and floral displays. More valuable than the scores are the judges’ comments, observations and recommendations.

Each town or municipality is judged against what they can accomplish taking into account the money available. At the end of the summer, scores are compared and the highest scores are announced at a banquet in September.

Judging is always a learning experience as one sees what plants others grow, as well other unique features are incorporated into an area.

In Clearwater County, often the raspberry of choice is yellow. The variety Honey Queen was developed by Bob Erskine, who lived north of Leslieville.

Bob gave his plants to friends, family and anyone who was interested in gardening. As a result, many of his plants flourish, especially in yards north of Leslieville. His rose Prairie Peace is the centre piece of Olds College’s rose garden.

Another notable plant was the alpine clematis that covered trellises, hiding arbours and other decorations. This clematis is as dense as the yellow clematis that is on the noxious plant list. It would make a great replacement plant as it still has attractive fuzzy seed pods but these seeds do not germinate as easily.

A totally white monkshood was a treat to see as the more common heritage ones are either purple or white with a fringe of blue at the flower’s mouth or hood.

Full-grown tobacco plants look very similar to the more decorative plant nicotiana but the tobacco plant is much taller with fewer flowers. The person growing them uses the plants to make an organic herbicide.

Flower shows are for people who love competition. Contributors spend hours growing the flowers, choosing the best and displaying them to their best advantage. This year, an international glad show, along with a dahlia show, will be held at Center Mall in Red Deer on Saturday and Sunday, with gladiolas and dahlias arriving on Friday.

The flowers on display will be some of the best in the world. It will definitely be worth a visit.

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

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