This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
There has been considerable discussion in England over horticultural societies, their management, and the judgment given by the judges at them. A few remarks about our own on this side of the ocean may, I hope, not be out of place, as there are evils existing which a few hints may remove. Having had some experience as secretary to one for several years, I made it a particular point to watch for and enquire into any grievances, but I am glad to say, in no case could I find anything but errors of judgment, to which all men are liable. One of the first principles of a society should be, to see that its rules are enforced to the very letter, though once in a while hardship may seem to result from the rigid enforcement. There are days set apart on which all entries must be made, and an hour in which all articles must be in position. But directors as well as others are often found very negligent on those points. I have known where parties would come early with their things, put them in position, look around and see what others had brought, and if they lived near, go home and bring other things which they thought would excel.
The entries having been once made, after seeing what distant exhibitors have brought, it is quite a common thing for parties to make many more entries than they intend to exhibit, so as to frighten others away. Sometimes articles may not turn out as well as they would like when they get them together; but even this entails considerable useless work on the secretary. Where cut flowers or devices are concerned, the time in which this work can be got ready is always limited by the perishable nature of the material. Men may enter in good faith but find the time too short to be able to complete the work. But extra time should not be allowed. Enforcing rules should never be looked at as arbitrary, but as fair justice to all concerned. There are parties that will catch at anything of this kind, and it is always best to give no chance. I have found Directors very remiss in their duty on these two points. Rule makers should be very careful not to be rule breakers.
Yet there are cases where this would be extremely arbitrary if carried to the letter; it is the spirit only which should be rigidly observed. I will relate one in point, more to show the spirit that should reign among all exhibitors, than anything else. It was the case of one of the largest and most successful exhibitors, having to travel by a train which was behind time so much that he got to the place of exhibition just as the doors were closing. The parties with whom he was to compete, in full knowledge that he almost always beat, yet aided him to get his articles in, and placed in their position, in the most kind and cheerful manner. A director could do no less than sanction such generosity.
Judges and their judgment often form a very great part of contention among exhibitors. In some lines it requires the utmost care to be able to decide, and then to show the justice of their decision when articles come close to one another. I will here say that cases have been known where plants were shown at three different exhibitions against the same material without any change being made in them, yet the judgment was changed every time, different views having been taken by the judges at all of them. But judges are very injudiciously chosen often; they should always be men with thorough practical knowledge, and if possible, without knowledge of source of the articles to be shown. Not that I would not entrust anything I had in their hands, but the knowledge of the article and the grower, unconsciously to the party, influence the decision or cause men to suspect so. Cases have been where the most just judgment has given offense to the parties concerned. I would in all cases where it is possible get strange judges. No doubt many errors arise from judges being incapable; but there is always a rule, or should be, in every schedule, giving dissatisfied parties a chance to have such looked into.
A meeting of directors should always be held on some of the days of the exhibition, to take up any complaints, and go over again whilst the articles are on exhibition. We should not consider it a matter of ingratitude to require this.
Many a society has been broken up through a rigid belief in the infallibility of a judge. Horticulturists do not go in unanimously as they should for their own good. Advertise their meetings, and send out circulars to all you like, and how many will attend a preliminary meeting? Ask them the reason why? and they will tell you that those that are now in office will have all cut and dried before they go to the meeting, and there is " no use for me to go." Such remarks are generally unjust, for I have been at many such meetings, and never heard any proposal made but was listened to with the greatest courtesy, no matter how absurd or from what source it came. Men must not be so selfish as to expect that their opinion shall always be approved. If parties think of the existence of compacts it is their duty, instead of staying away, to come out and break them down by their presence and their votes. But they must not forget that all parties have a like right, and others have as much right as they to propose and aid in electing who they think fit for positions. Persons adapted for this purpose should be such as have some knowledge of horticulture, or at least take an interest in it.
It is often done for the sake of means for their support, and even this idea comes very useful in most societies.
There is another class of persons that do attend these meetings, sit and hear all that passes, never opening a mouth until outside the door after the meeting, and then talking freely enough about what should have been done. Perhaps some things were done wrong and if the word had been said, all would have been right. I would not wish to be understood as meaning that all societies endure this sort of thing, but I am convinced that there is far too much of this spirit existing. It would be well that all people interested in horticulture do all in their power to break down any barrier which may be detrimental, and go in with a spirit of kindness and forbearance with one another's faults. Kind, reasonable words have always the most force to overcome and remove matters in discord with this or any other matter. Supt. Gov't Grounds, Ottawa, Can.