Judges are a vital part of the American Iris Society.  Learn more about judges. We hope you will consider becoming a judge.

Scroll Down for These Topics
2021 Judges Handbook
Judges Training Information for 2021
Judges Training Information for 2020
Becoming a Judge
Finding Judges
Judges Training Webinars
Reference Material

The 2021 Judges Handbook is Now Available

The AIS Judges Handbook has a new version as of August 1st, 2021.  It is available electronically as a PDF Handbook and is now available in the AIS Storefront as a binder version.

The electronic version is available as a single file PDF and as individual chapter’s PDFs beginning here.

We will also continue to update the Judges Handbook as suggestions are received.  Please submit your suggestions using this form.  Thank you for your help.

American Iris Society Judges Training Information for 2021

American Iris Society Judges  – This March 2021 recommendation was later adopted by the AIS Board.

In spring of 2020 the COVID-19 virus was beginning its rapid spread across the United States.  There was so much uncertainty and concern about the virus that many celebrations such as our 100th Anniversary were not possible.  In addition to cancellations of the convention, iris shows, iris sales, and judges training, the AIS Board of Directors voted unanimously to postpone judges’ requirements for 2020 (8-1-2019 through 7-31-2020).  

While we know more about the spread of COVID-19 and have vaccines available, vaccines are not available to 100% of the population.  Some states have relaxed mask restrictions and reduced social distancing requirements, while other states have not.  The AIS has provided on-line judges training and the classes have been well received; however, we have not reached 100% of our judges due to technology and/or schedule restraints.

In 2021, we are seeing a small percentage of regions and clubs sponsoring in-person iris shows, virtual iris shows, and in-garden judges training.  All these are positive signs we are moving in the right direction.

The AIS board is diligently working to complete the “new” revised Handbook for Judges.  Anticipated completion date is late summer 2021.  I hope you will be pleased with the updates.  A number of training sessions will be scheduled, hopefully in the fall, to update everyone on all the changes made. The updated Handbook is possible through the dedication of many people and hours.  We are working through various print and print-on-demand ideas that will be announced very soon.

In summary, my recommendation is that required judges training hours be waived for the time period of 8-1-2020 through 7-31-2021.  Advancements of Student to Apprentice and Apprentice to Judge is possible if required hours were achieved during this time period.  In addition, an Apprentice Judge would have an extra year to complete their requirements.  Garden/Exhibition Judges advancing to Master Judge status will occur automatically if the number of years of required service is met.

We will start a fresh AIS Judges year on 8-1-2021.  Fresh with anticipation of resuming life-as-we-knew-it before COVID-19 and a fresh revised Handbook.  

Thank you,

Bonnie J Nichols, AIS Judges Training Chair

American Iris Society Judges Training Information for 2020

Because of the government-imposed restrictions on large gatherings due to the coronavirus, The American Iris Society Annual Convention, Median Iris Convention, and the Louisiana Iris Convention have been canceled as well as many (if not all) of the spring regional meetings. This means that opportunities to take garden and class room judges training will be very limited, if not impossible. 

If your region has trainees that have completed their requirements to move to Apprentice or Garden Judge status, they will move automatically. If you have a Garden Judges that have met their requirements to become Master Judges, they will advance automatically. 

If your region has Student, Apprentice, Garden, or Master Judges that lack hours for 2020, the decision has been made to extend their eligibility for one year. 

I am in the process of evaluating online Judges Training classes and will let you know as soon as they become available for your clubs and regions. 

Everyone is charting new ways of doing things. None of us have been through such a horrific event which has impacted our entire world. I appreciate your patience and will be happy to answer any questions you or your judges may have. 

Thank you, 

Bonnie J Nichols, AIS Judges Training Chairman
(214) 676-9892


The accredited judge is the backbone of The AIS judging program and is responsible for the selection of award winners. It is the judges’ votes that determine which irises receive awards and thus are recommended to the public. Serving as a judge is a privilege, and duties should be fulfilled with dedication. The judge is a representative of The American Iris Society and should conduct himself/herself in a manner which will bring credit to the organization.

The most visible aspects of being a judge are voting for how irises perform in the garden and determining the quality of iris blooms in iris shows.  Supporting these judgements requires continued education and practical experience.

As judges’ actions touch so many of The AIS activities, this page provides an introduction for potential judges and everyone who needs to find judges.  Judges and others will find links to some of the reference materials available.

Thank you to all our present and former judges!  We continue to see the results of your service in all the incredible irises.

Becoming a Judge

Path to Becoming an Accredited AIS Judge 

Source: AIS Handbook for Judges and Show Officials

The following “Quick Start” guide to becoming an AIS Accredited Judge was prepared by request in Region 21 based on the AIS requirements.  Some Regions have requirements in addition to the AIS requirements.

All AIS members are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about irises and, in their own time, to consider taking the step from Candidate to Apprentice.

Qualified judges are needed by every affiliate hosting an iris show.

Tips For Getting Started

  • It is recommended that a log of all Judges Training be kept for personal records.
  • When attending Judges Training outside of your home region, it is your responsibility to provide documentation to your home region RVP.
  • Judges Training Year of Record runs August 01 through July 31

To Become a Candidate 

Requirements: None
Time Limit: None
AIS Membership Requirement: None
Reporting Requirements: None
Educational and Guideline Resources:

  •   AIS Handbook for Judges and Show Officials, current edition [Available for purchase from AIS, or as free download on AIS website]
  •  All approved, structured, classroom AIS Judges Training events

To Become an Apprentice Judge 

Entry Requirements:

  •   3 years continuous AIS membership at the time of application. 
  •   Successful completion of at least two approved judges training session for a minimum of 10 hours.
  •   Application to Regional Judges Training Chair with written recommendations from five (5) accredited judges

Time Limit: 3 Years to complete
AIS Membership Requirement: Continuous AIS membership
Reporting Requirements: Annual Activity Report, due August 1
Educational and Guideline Resources: Same as above
Training as an Apprentice Judge

  • 10 hours of approved AIS Judges Training.
  • Successfully complete AIS Awards and Balloting Judges Training session of at least 2-hours in length, taught by an accredited AIS Judge. If successfully completed as a candidate, can be counted toward Apprentice requirements but does not count as current judges training hours.

Required Tutored Activities

  • In garden judging of blooming seedling or named cultivars on two (2) separate occasions, under tutorship of two (2) different fully accredited AIS judges. Each session must be for a minimum of two (2) hours and must be spent truly evaluating iris plants (e.g. vigor, stalk, branching, substance, durability, bud count, form).
  • Exhibition training at two (2) different accredited shows, or simulated show conditions (must be pre-approved by RVP), under the tutorship of two (2) different fully accredited AIS judges, limited to listening to the evaluations being made by the judges and to learn from their deliberation and in no way participating in the judging, clerking or other related activities. However, the apprentice should have the opportunity to evaluate one or more specimens independent of judging and related official activities.

The above quick start comes from the Region 21 Bulletin 149, p 20-21 (2017).

The requirements for maintaining continued accreditation as an AIS judge can be found in Chapter 1 – this is the updated 2021 link – of the current Handbook for Judges and Show Officials.

Finding Judges

Judges are needed as part of all Iris Shows, formally known as Iris Exhibitions.  Every year the AIS Board approves the current list of accredited judges.  The
current list can be found in the AIS website Archive under Documents.  The 2021 Judges List by Region presently is the most recent list.

Judges are also needed to provide judges training at local, regional, and national events.  While the above list is helpful for this, the Iris Program Resources (Speakers) Chair can provide further guidance for specific topics and judges availability.

Judges Training Webinars

Note:  Click on Show More below each video for the JT test’s links.


Recently added Judges Training Videos and Tests
Judges Training and AIS Webinar #25: (March 9 2022) Gary White and Bonnie Nichols “Awards and Ballots (JT), Part 2 & Ethics”
Judges Training and AIS Webinar #24: (March 2 2022) Gary White and Bonnie Nichols “Awards and Ballots (JT)”


Previous Judges Training Videos and Tests
JT videos are only available via the links provided, otherwise they are not listed on the videos available to the public.
Judges Training and AIS Webinar #16: (06-09-2021) Jill Bonino “Tall Bearded Iris Today and Tomorrow”
Judges Training and AIS Webinar #14 (05-05-2021) Patrick Spence “Two Worlds – One Iris. A look at the Past, Present and Future of the Siberian Iris”
Judges Training and AIS Webinar #3 (08-05-2020) Bonnie Nichols on “Novelty Irises: Broken Color and Flatties.” 
Judges Training and AIS Webinar #4 (08-12-2020) Bonnie Nichols on “Novelty Irises: Space Agers.” 

Reference Material

The process of becoming an AIS judge and remaining a judge involves continual learning about irises and their judging.

Note:  The following part references the 2007 Judges Handbook.  See beginning of this page for its replacement, the 2021 Judges Handbook.

The Handbook for Judges and Show Officials is the reference that all judges and aspiring judges need to have.  You can order it through the AIS Storefront.  Find PDFs of the individual sections of chapters beginning with this online Table of Contents.

PDFs of the following resources are available for Judges or students

The above forms come from the RVP Handbook which is available online.

You can learn more about the AIS Awards and the judges responsibilities in them.  Draft ballots are available early in the year for judges and others study.

As irises continue to change, so does what the Judges Handbook needs to contain.  There is currently a Judges Handbook Revision Committee with contact information on the Leadership page.