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

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2022 Judges Handbook
Becoming a Judge
Finding Judges
Judges Training Webinars
Reference Material

The 2022 Judges Handbook is Now Available

The AIS Judges Handbook has a new version as of September 2022.  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.


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

To Become a Garden/Exhibition Judge

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 2023 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 #34: (April 5 2023) Bob Hollingworth “Knowing and Growing Siberian Irises”
Judges Training and AIS Webinar #31: (February 15 2023) Stephanie Markham “Judging Bearded Irises as Garden Plants”
Judges Training and AIS Webinar #27: (July 13 2022) Jill Bonino “Iris Color Patterns: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow”
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.

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.

Covid Note: The 2020 and 2021 Judges Training requirements were suspended because of Covid.  Here are the announcements.