About the NEJC
The Northeast Judging Center
The Northeast Judging Center can be traced back to NYC circa 1949. The NEJC, as it came to be known, was foundational to the beginning of the American Orchid Societies' formalized program to display and award orchid plants.
Founded in 1921, the judging and recognizing exceptional orchid plants and growers' skills has been an integral part of the AOS’s history; the first AOS National Orchid Show was held in 1924 at which gold and silver medals were awarded. Permanent, recorded awards that would follow an outstanding plant's name were created in 1932, the AOS' eleventh year.
With growing membership and the affiliation of more regional societies, the demand for exhibition and evaluation spurred the AOS to expand the scope of judging, formalize the development of a permanent community of judges, and standardize its rules. To codify and distribute these rules, as well as material on staging shows and orchid nomenclature, the first edition of the Handbook was published in 1949. That year also saw the establishment of monthly exhibitions in the facilities of the Horticultural Society of New York through its cooperation with the newly created AOS Committee on Arrangements, soon called the Committee on Awards and renamed the Judging Committee in 1996. Orchids could then be brought from anywhere and be judged for AOS awards.
The Northeast center remains today a thriving leader in judging excellence, and counts some of the world's foremost orchid experts among its judges.
The NEJC champions diversity and inclusion by welcoming judges, exhibitors, observers and candidates for admission into the judging program. The center strives to maintain an environment free from discrimination. harassment or bullying regardless of age, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, ethnicity, and perspective.
AOS awards are designed to encourage and to recognize meritorious achievement in all fields of orchid endeavor. To accomplish this, awards are granted to individual persons, individual orchid plants, groups of orchid plants, cut flowers, and orchid arrangements, all in accordance with established rules. Wherever the granting of such awards is determined by use of point scores, the appropriate point scale shall be used. Awards granted to individual plants are made to a particular cultivar, which must be designated by a permanent cultivar name and the award (or highest award if there are two or more), although only the originally judged portion receives a certificate.
AOS awards are a recognized measure of quality the world over and coveted by hobbyists and commercial growers alike. An AOS flower quality award adds value to an orchid in its own right, and as a parent for creating hybrids. Awards are based on 100 point scales as defined in the AOS Handbook, section titled Point Scales for AOS Awards.
Expand this section by clicking or tapping the down arrow to view the the flower awards the American Orchid Society grants.
Flower Quality Awards
First Class Certificate (FCC)
Awarded to an orchid species or hybrid which scores 90 points or more.
Award of Merit (AM)
Awarded to an orchid species or hybrid which scores between 80 and 89 points inclusive.
Highly Commended Certificate (HCC)
Awarded to an orchid species or hybrid which scores between 75 and 79 points inclusive.
Certificate of Cultural Excellence (CCE)
Awarded to the exhibitor of a specimen plant of robust health and appearance with an unusually large number of flowers. The plant must have been in the care of the exhibitor at least 12 months immediately prior to the award. The plant must score at least 90 points.
Certificate of Cultural Merit (CCM)
Awarded to the exhibitor of a specimen plant of robust health and appearance with an unusually large number of flowers. The plant must have been in the care of the exhibitor at least 12 months immediately prior to the award. The plant must score between 80 and 89 points inclusive.
Certificate of Horticultural Merit (CHM)
Awarded to a cultivar of a species, subspecies or natural hybrid with outstanding aesthetic appeal that contributes to the horticultural aspects of orchidology. The entire plant must be exhibited and the plant and flowers displayed should be in good condition and have sufficient flowers to judge the horticultural merit of the plant.
Certificate of Botanical Recognition (CBR)
Awarded to a cultivar of a species, subspecies, variety, or natural hybrid deemed especially worthy of recognition for rarity, novelty or educational value previously unrecorded by AOS. The entire plant must be exhibited and not just the inflorescence.
Judges' Commendation (JC)
Awarded to flowers or plants, individually or in groups, for a distinctive characteristic or aspect of historical or other importance which, in the opinion of the judges, is worthy of recognition. Judges' Commendations must record the specific values for which the award is given. Granted without scoring by an affirmative vote of at least 75 percent of the judging team assigned.
Award of Distinction (AD)
Awarded once to a cross, exhibited individually or collectively, representing a worthy new direction in breeding. The award is granted unanimously without scoring by the judging team assigned. The specific values for which this award is granted must be recorded by the judging team. If the hybridizer and exhibitor are different, each shall receive a certificate. The Award of Distinction is not given a cultivar name.
Award of Quality (AQ)
Awarded once to a strain (the result of a mating of specific cultivars), exhibited by a single individual as a group of not less than l2 different clones or the inflorescences thereof, of a raised species or hybrid, which may or may not have been made before, when the result is of sufficient improvement over the former type. The parental cultivar epithets and the hybridizer of this strain, (not necessarily the registrant of the hybrid), must be provided by the exhibitor upon entry. At least one cultivar of the exhibited strain must receive, or have received, a flower quality award. It is granted unanimously without scoring by the judging team assigned. The specific values for which this award is granted must be recorded by the judging team. If the hybridizer and exhibitor are different, each shall receive a certificate. The Award of Quality is not given a cultivar name.
The Northeast Judging Center hosts monthly judgings on the first and third Saturdays of each month in the Boylston and East Hanover locations, respectively. They are open to the public. In the event of inclement weather, (or pandemic) it is advisable to confirm ahead of time if that month's judging will be taking place.
The NEJC supports judging of AOS sanctioned orchid shows by request and 'outreach' judgings as part of their ongoing commitment to engaging the AOS-affiliated orchid societies and the orchid growing public. This service, both practical and educational, is only available to AOS-affiliated orchid societies or orchid societies looking to be affiliated with the AOS. Contact the NEJC for more information.
Supported Regional Orchid Shows
Etiquette during AOS Judging Activity
Owners remain anonymous for fairness until the plant has been judged. No commentary is permitted while judging is going on. Exhibitors may be engaged if the Judging Chair asks for comments from the plant owner at the conclusion of judging.
If your plant receives an award, be proud and accept the kudos for your efforts. If the plant does not already have a cultivar name, you will be asked for one so you may want to think about that ahead of time.
What happens when a plant receives an award?
The exhibitor of the winning plant will receive a copy of the award form with a unique award number. If the plant does not already have a clonal name the exhibitor will choose one.
The plant will also be photographed.
The judging center will then process the award, and send the award and photograph to the awards registrar for processing.
Once processed, you will receive an emailed invoice (If you do not have email, you will receive your copy in the mail).
To pay for the award, you can either follow the link on the invoice (if you are a member) or purchase it through website in the online shop, mail the invoice back with your check/money order/credit card information, or you can call the AOS office, 305-740-2010, and they will process your credit card payment over the phone.
Once your award is paid for, you will be sent your official award certificate and you may also ask for a digital copy of the award photograph for your personal use.
The award will be included in OrchidPro, the official registry of all American Orchid Society Awards, and will be published in Orchids magazine the following year.
Tips on preparing your plants for judging
A few weeks prior to an AOS judging event, prepare the candidate plant to present it in its best light by cutting away dead or decaying material, removing damaged leaves and leaf litter from the pot, and inspecting for pests. Plants with pests or disease may be screened and not proceed any further in the judging process.
Stake it early to present the flowers well as they bloom. Pay attention to orientation of the pot in relationship to the sun’s movement as the buds emerge. Keeping the plant to the same orientation any time you move it will help prevent the flowers from twisting in awkward directions as they bloom.
Becoming an AOS Judge in the NEJC
The NEJC judges are passionate about orchids. We are a diverse group and welcome all who share that passion and thirst for an experience that allows for life long learning.
We encourage all prospective students to observe the process firsthand. Here are a few things you can do to learn more:
Clerk at a monthly judging
Participate in ribbon judging at AOS sanctioned shows where you will work with accredited judges
Speak to an NEJC judge
Use the contact us page of this website.