Winter Orchid Paradise Display

Week 45: Feb 8, 2021

Winter Orchid Paradise Display

This week I would like to present Winter Orchid Paradise Display - a new feature of this exercise.

This exercise was created to discuss how we as AOS judges, judge displays (group of plants) using specific AOS criteria.

There are several AOS awards for Exhibits: Gold and Silver Certificates, Artistic Certificate, Certificate of Meritorious Arrangement, Educational Exhibit Certificate and the Show Trophy Award.

Please reference the below guidelines for AOS Judging Handbook for more information about judging 'Groups of Plants or Cut Flowers Arranged for Effect' :

- The point scale used for judging exhibits for the AOS Show Trophy and Show Trophy Certificate (paragraphs 6.3.2 and 6.3.3);

- Gold and Silver Certificates for Groups, Collections or Cut Flower Exhibits (paragraph 6.3.1).

For additional information, see paragraph 7.4 Principles of Design.

Some of the awards scoring for exhibits is based on unique and specific criteria (see Judge’s Handbook). As a reminder, here is scoring for the Show Trophy Award most commonly used for judging displays at AOS sanctioned shows:

General arrangement (Design) - 35 points includes the following:





Rhythm Scale

Quality of flowers - 35 points

Variety - 20 points

Labeling - 10 points

Total Points 100

This display was created by using multiple stands of different heights which give a multilevel and multidimensional presentation. The total size of the display is 36" x 32".

There are a total of 12 plants of a variety of genera - Paphiopedilums, Cattleyas, Dendrobium, Phalaenopsis, Oncidium and few others:

  1. Cuitlauzina (Osmoglossum) pulchella

  2. Dendrobium bracteosum (tannii) semialba

  3. Paphiopedilum Saiun ‘China Warrior’ HCC/AOS

  4. Brassocattleya Yellow Bird

  5. Rhyncada Tarantula

  6. Paphiopedilum Via Ojai

  7. Paphiopedilum Calvert Sunrise

  8. Cattleya loddigesii ‘A-doribil’ FCC/AOS

  9. Oncidium Tariflor Ruby

  10. Phalaenopsis schilleriana

  11. Leptotes pohlitinocoi

  12. Phragmipedium schlimii

All plants and flowers are in good to perfect condition. You can find all labels (numbers) on the second image.

Enjoy the display!

Judges' Comments

Wayne Wiegand (Accredited Judge, Northeast Judging Center)

I love small exhibits but they can be very challenging due to the space constraints. Orchid placement is paramount and can’t be hidden by sheer plant volume. There are many very beautiful flowers in this exhibit and well grown plants, but I feel that as an awardable exhibit, it falls short in several ways.

Having a focal point is a great way to set the observer’s eyes as they begin to move thru the exhibit, but unfortunately my eyes are constantly drawn to the central bright sandy colored striped pot, not an orchid. Using moss or fern may help lessen the impact of strongly colored pots.

Directly to this pot’s upper left is a black hole thru the exhibit. Negative space is important but I find this too deep. One can even use dark pots to create negative space but the bright pots here I find distracting.

There is a beautiful Paph. appearing above the central pot, at least in the photos, but it blends so well with its background as to be almost lost as I face the first exhibit photo. It might well be the perfect focal point but needs to be better positioned.

Upward movement can be very effective in any exhibit and sitting above this exhibit is three different flowers, each looking disconnected from each other, as well as the exhibit, by big gaps. These plants could be moved closer together to create a stronger top point to the exhibit and the gap between them and the rest of the exhibit decreased in some way.

Color flow to me is fine, even the placement of the yellow and orange flowers on opposite sides I find acceptable.

I really appreciated the movie of the exhibit, and it showed me how beautiful the orchids, but also how great the gap between plants and, to me, this hinders the exhibit’s cohesion. Just moving them back and closer together might help.

So for me, great plants and flowers, and beautiful pots but I would pass on any award.

Kristen Mason (Accredited Judge, Cincinnati Judging Center)

Plants are clean and groomed. Flowers are in good condition. Nice variety. Good depth and height on the arrangement. More separation between some of the plants would have been nice so that the individual plants and flowers are more visible - the Rhyncada is a little obscured by the Cuitlauzina. The Phrag. schlimii gets lots some. The Leptotes pohlitinocoi really gets lost. Both could have used more height and separation so they are more easily seen. I really like the flow and rhythm in the back with plants 6, 7, 8 and 9. The color, balance and contrast otherwise are OK, but somehow the individual components don't quite come together. There is conflict in dominance between the orange Rhyncada and the yellow of the Brassocattleya. The eye doesn't move smoothly thru the display. For this type of setting/display - I really like the browns, yellows, blacks of the pots and stands. They are interesting, yet neutral enough that they don't compete with the plants and give nice contrast. Pointing came out at 80.

Al Messina (Accredited Judge, Northeast Judging Center)

A lovely collection of nicely grown, multigeneric species and hybrids well displayed to warm the hearts of everyone on a cold and snowy winter's day in the northeast USA.

We are asked to evaluate the display based on AOS criteria:

General arrangement (Design) - 35 points My Score: 28

Quality of flowers - 35 points 28

Variety - 20 points 16

Labeling - 10 points 6

Total Points 100 78

Discussion: The arrangement lacks a focal point. The single flowered central Cattleya appears to be a possibility. The Paph. Saiun appears to be a candidate but is enmeshed in a green clutter. Color flow is suboptimal. There is no dominant visual path through the design.

Flower quality is fairly average for a society show table with relatively young/small plants, not distinguishable for award quality now.

Variety is good for a small table top-equivalent design/display.

Labels should provide the observer a quick and easy method of accessing information. They must be very clear, concise, immediately proximate to the plant, and provide plant information (name, awards, origin-if species, etc.) without necessitating multiple maneuvers. Allowing for the virtual nature of this exercise, the exhibitor did well. In a formal show setting, in my opinion, the labelling is quite important. Some of the best exhibits do not get the higher recognition deserved because of poor or difficult labelling. This is particularly apparent in wardian cases where the exhibitor has an external document, or a series of documents, associated with the internal contents. This might be convenient for the exhibitor but very annoying (Read: time consuming!) for the observers/judges. Occasionally, this might result in an otherwise worthy exhibit from receiving a silver certificate (85 points).

Deb Bodei (Associate Judge, Northeast Judging Center)

Winter Orchid Paradise Display


It is wonderful to have a display to look at without shows. This beautiful arrangement does emit a view of paradise in the middle of winter. Thanks to Sergey for bringing us something in the area most of us enjoy judging and participating in.

I would be looking to judge this display using the scorecard we use for Show Trophy Awards at shows and applicable to groups of plants.

Considering General Arrangement, I am first looking at the use of the Five Principles of Design. This display does have balance with visual weight evenly distributed and symmetrical. What is missing for me is the use of negative space to give my eye a rest, and also a focal. All the plants are pretty well evenly distributed along with the cache pots. No individual plant is drawing my eye to a path through the display. I am seeing contrast using light colored plants easily seen against the black cloth at the top, but lower in the display there is less contrast with colors from the plants, pots and stands competing for attention. The Paph. wardii hybrid is a spectacular plant, but I can hardly see it in the center where the display is most busy. I am not seeing dominance exhibited in this display, but I am seeing a sense of proportion which is calming and pleasing. Rhythm and scale are hard to achieve in a smaller display and even harder to capture in a photo unless it is obvious. This display is very balanced and symmetrical so there is nothing indicating rhythm except for the white plants on the left-hand side ascending but then sort of stopping at about the apex. Color flow is grouped by color type which is effective especially in a smaller display.

Quality, Variety and Labelling all achieve high marks in this display.


Using the show trophy scoresheet to judge groups of plants (7.3.3) I scored this display at 81. It may have scored a point or two higher in person. I would certainly enjoy this display if it adorned my living room.

Thank you,


Tom Mirenda (Accredited Judge, Hawaii Judging Center)

A charming and varied array of interesting and beautiful plants nicely arranged for viewing all the flowers presented

The ceramic stands add multilevel height and some continuity to the display, the black background is helpful to make the flowers pop too….

As nice as it is, there are several things that could have been tweaked to make the display more pleasing

  • A small investment in uniform pottery would add cohesion and a nice rhythm to the display, it looks like the exhibiter used whatever they had in the potting shed which leads to the pots often distracting from the flowers

  • The exhibit also suffer from the plastic pots being visible above the lip of the cachepots…some moss or black cloth would

  • Small displays are often dependent on whatever happens to be in bloom for their creation, but they can still be thoughtfully placed…..While these plants have been beautifully arranged for the sake of seeing each flower well, it would go to the next level of beauty if color harmony and contrasts were considered more.

  • There are clashing colors amidst this presentation, and with a little effort perhaps having pinks and whites on one side and yellows, oranges and bronzes to the right would make for a stronger overall image

  • It may be that the exhibitor was looking for a full and symmetrical display, but in my experience, even small displays are more engaging with an empty space or prop (driftwood or water feature for example) to break things up and give the viewer a place for their eye’s to rest.

  • Symmetry is overrated and actually impossible to achieve with varied plants, so an asymmetrical display would probably have been more engaging.

  • Finally, the addition of some ferns or other light foliage would soften the edges of the pots….and take away the impression of their lack of uniformity.

Even so, it is certainly a fine, small display that any orchid show exhibitor could be very proud of…..Well done

Deb Boersma (Student Judge, Great Lakes Judging Center)

This is a cute display with a nice variety of healthy plants, flower colours and genera. It looks nicely proportioned and a nice flow to the colour and a well-balanced distribution of plants. The thing that I found distracting is the cream-coloured pot right in the middle of the display that drew my eye to it and then to the swirled design pot to the right of it instead of my eyes being drawn towards the plants. I think some filler plants or black material wrapped around the pots would have made a big difference. I think if plants #3 Paphiopedilum Saiun ‘China Warrior’ HCC/AOS and #4 Brassocattleya Yellow Bird were switched in position, the bright new flowers of the Yellow Bird would draw your eye into the middle of the display and then up and around the displayed flowers. (or maybe that would have thrown off the balance). Overall, the general arrangements look good, labelling is good. However, I don’t think it would qualify for an AOS Award.

Carol Beule (Accredited Judge, Pacific South Judging Center)

I come up with a 78-80 point amount, depending on various things, but if this display were here, and it were presented this way, it would be passed over immediately due to the uncovered pots distracting from the plants and the flowers.

Quality - 30

Variety - 18

Labeling - 5 (without seeing anything)

General design principles - 25-29.

The pots all call attention to themselves far too much to allow anyone to focus on the flowers in bloom. They need to be disguised and neutralized.

The flowers seem to be in good condition and the variety is sufficient, but I would have arranged the yellow plant on the right to the left where the orange one is and lowered the orange one as it is smaller (the yellow one is too large to be in front in my estimation). Then I would have put the 2 white ones on the left to the right. I think the flow would be better that way.

I fault the display for its balance and color positioning. This display would be so easy to fix by simply moving several plants around and get a much better score. But then, I am a designer by trade and these issues bother me greatly. It is so close to being almost wonderful.

Trevor Yee (Accredited Judge, AOC, Australia)

At Orchid Society of NSW/AOC, Display Judging is applied at large multi display shows where each display is ranked based on the sum of points granted by each participating judge.

As this exercise is based on just one display - I will score it as if it was part of many other displays.

I will make comments and observations based on the Display Judging guidelines of the AOC/Orchid Society of NSW rules which are:


Assess the overall quality of orchids in the display, particularly plants that enhance the display. To be assessed in relation to the total number of plants in the display.

PRESENTATION - 25 points

Visibility of flowers without crowding, pleasing arrangement of colour and placement of outstanding plants.


Design of display showing flowing lines and balance in the display as well as focal points. Displays should also have open areas sufficient to allow judges to access prize plants.


Presence of a wide range of colours and shades, noting their impact and harmony. The absence of or excess of one colour should be noted.

FINISH - 10 points

Display should be dressed all around and pots should not be noticeable or obtrusive.

TICKETING - 5 points

Tickets should not be obtrusive and be readable and should have the correct nomenclature on them.

Total Points - 100

Quality of Orchids - there are some beautifully grown and presented plants of high quality, along with several great specimen plants that have enhanced the overall quality of this table display. They are in good pristine condition. 23/25 Points

Presentation - All plants are placed with sufficient spacing to avoid crowding. All prominent plants are positioned for clear viewing. The placement of the 2 flowered Paph. at the centre of the display in my opinion has created a 'dark' centre for the display. The placement of colours is complimentary and pleasing without one colour dominating any section of the display. 22/25 Points

Design - This is a square to rectangular design with a central focus point. There is not a lot of variation in height to provide points of interest or flow. 21/25 Points

Variety of Colour - Good wide range of colours - no access of one colour. Colours are complimentary. 8/10 Points

Finish - the use of multi-coloured decorative pots in my view seem to distract from the orchids as the eyes are drawn to the patterns of the pots. Dressing could take the form of black pot coverings (eg pot socks) and softened by the use of ferns/moss and small foliage plants. This is at the discretion of the display builder but a point to note nevertheless. 7/10 Points

Ticketing - no tickets to provide names of prominent plants in the display (I'll assume this is omitted for the purpose of this virtual judging). 5/5 Points

Total = 86 /100 Points.

Sincere gratitude to the exhibitor for putting this great display together for our enjoyment (especially in the US winter).

Carrie Buchman (Associate Judge, Northeast Judging Center)

Winter Orchid Paradise Display

An attractive display of a good variety of well-grown species and hybrids that are arranged for effect. The plants are identified in the photos with numbers that can be difficult to see, and that correlate to a listing in the website where genera have been italicized, but not species names. The name given, Rhyncada Tarantula, should be Brassostele Tarantula; Rhyncada is a valid genus name.

The central Paphiopedilum which I believe is intend to be a focal point is lost against the foliage behind it, and my eye is drawn to the light-colored pot that is too prominent for my taste. Grow-pots are visible in the decorative pots which detracts from the overall presentation.

In general, the quality of the plant material is very good; however, the Phal. schilleriana is bit under flowered given the possibilities with this species.

I scored this exhibit in the mid-70s.

Kind Regards,

Carrie Buchman

Exhibitor - Sergey and Elena Skoropad, NJ (Associate Judges, Northeast Judging Center)

Virtual Award Description

A 36” wide by 32”deep charming home orchid display comprised of a diverse group of plants arranged on metals stands of varying heights in decorative ceramic pots against a black background, give a glimpse of orchid paradise during winter months; design principles of balance and proportion are demonstrated through careful arrangement using symmetry and pleasing color flow; 12 immaculately groomed and staked orchids with pristine blooms from 10 unique genera of various form and color including paphiopedilums, cattleyas, oncidiums, a Phalaenopsis, Dendrobium and a mounted specimen-sized Leptodes are arranged complementarily; a complete and accurate plant list corresponds to virtual numbers added to the display photo; this pleasing arrangement of orchids provides a respite from winter doldrums.

Grower's Advice

We love to create orchid displays at home. Depending on how many orchids we have in bloom, we would create displays 3 or 4 times a year. As space is limited, we have two options: small table and several small stands of different heights. We have a “small” collection of orchids about 400 plants and grow them without greenhouse indoors in the winter and outside in the summer. You can see our display published in Orchids magazine in the April 2019 issue.

This time we used a few stands to create a multilevel presentation. Unfortunately, no large orchids flowered and I couldn’t have the centerpiece that I wanted! However, I tried my best by using plants which were in bloom.

I was not sure why I decided to use light colored pots in this display (especially in the center of the display). In the reality this display looks totally different than on the picture. Labeling the plants was also challenging - using numbers on the image was the only way to label the plant and then show numbers and plant names as text on website. Finally, the most difficult part of the presentation was creating the video to show all plants from a multidimensional view.

We would like to thank all who sent their comment on our small display - all comments are very much appreciated!

Sergey and Elena