Weeding through Coronado: Let the Judging Begin!

760 B Ave.

Is your grass freshly cut? Are your roses in bloom? And are the hedges trimmed?

Gardeners beware: The home front judging portion of the 2011 Coronado Flower Show began on Monday.

The annual competition is a source of great pride in the community. It has also been known to stir up a controversy or two, when homeowners are awarded less than they think they deserve.

“This is serious business for a lot of people,” said Leslie Crawford, president of the Coronado Floral Association. “They work hard. And sometimes we agree with them and sometimes we don’t.”

Every home, municipal building, business and school in Coronado is judged. The city is divided into 39 zones. The Cays are judged separately, and only those homes that are maintained by the actual owners—not the Coronado Cays Homeowners Association—are entered into the competition.

More than 120 volunteers armed with clipboards and a list of criteria walk through their various areas over three days. The buildings and homes that are deemed worthy will receive first-place blue ribbons, second-place red ribbons, third-place yellow ribbons, and honorable mention white ribbons.

If a judge thinks a home is particularly spectacular, it will be awarded a blue ribbon with an asterisk. The qualifying homes will be narrowed down to a list of about 20, and from there, the Honorary Judging Committee will select the top 10 homes in the city.

Of those 10, the committee will name the first- and second-place winners. They will also give the Best Block award and the most Gorgeous Garden award.

“As far as I know, I think we’re the only city in America that does this,” said Rob Crenshaw, co-chairman of the flower show and the home front judging.

The idea began as way to motivate local residents and business owners to beautify the neighborhood in the spirit of the flower show, which is now in its 86th year and is one of the longest running traditions in Coronado.

But even an event created with the best of intentions can lead to hurt feelings or a ruffled feather here and there.

“We’ve had ribbons torn up and mailed back to us,” said Crawford, who has fielded phone calls from angry homeowners that are upset about the results.

Crenshaw has been involved with the flower show for the last four years. He joined the team because of his wife, Laura, who is an avid gardener, a member of both of the local garden clubs, and a nationally certified flower show judge—an accomplishment that typically takes about three years.

“I am not a gardener,” Rob Crenshaw admitted, adding that his goal in taking on the home front judging was to make the process more transparent.

So what are the judges looking for?

According to Crawford and Crenshaw, it’s about first impression, tidiness, and the overall care and health of the garden.

“The impression you get when you first look at it sets the tone,” Crenshaw said.

First impression accounts for 40 percent, and they can only judge what can be seen from the sidewalk. This includes things like raking the leaves, trimming the hedges and mowing the lawn.

It also includes the house itself. “If the house needs some paint or maintenance,” it could have an adverse effect on the judging, he explained.

Crawford said the yard should also be neat and tidy. For example, an uncoiled hose is a big no-no.

The judges also look at the overall plan of the yard.

“Are the plants mature, or did they just throw a bunch of pansies in the front the day before? Did they have a blue ribbon in mind?” Crenshaw said the judges can see right through all of that.

Crawford also joked about the last-minute panic.

“This week and last week are the big weeks. The gardeners were out in full force,” she said with a smile.

But whether the house is big or small, and whether the work is expert or novice, each home is judged on its own merit.

“There’s the massive mansions and the little bungalows, and they all spend time on their gardens,” Crenshaw added.

He also noted the recent popularity of eco-friendly gardens that require less water.

“There are the cactus and succulent gardens, and we consider those, too,” he said. “If they are mature, they have a beauty of their own.”

And fake grass doesn’t count against you, according to Crawford.

“Some of the homes are smaller. It might be a young family or a rental, so there’s not a lot to it. But if you can see that they made an effort, that counts,” she said.

Crenshaw said he has received several requests for the judging to be separated into two categories—those that are maintained by the homeowner and those that are maintained by a professional landscaper or gardener.

“But what people don’t realize is that it would be hard to determine which is which,” he said. “Our goal is to beautify Coronado, and it doesn’t matter how it gets beautified.”

Crenshaw also pointed out that there are no repeat areas among the judges that volunteer year after year. A judge will also never be in charge of his or her own street. And if a home has been deemed one of the best in the city, it cannot win again the following year.

This year the qualified homes will receive a newly designed certificate, which was created by John Weiman, a local graphic designer.

“They are gorgeous!” Crenshaw said.

The certificate and ribbon will be printed on heavy cardstock for easy display. The backside will feature a space for notes and photos that can be saved and used through the years to cultivate the perfect recipe for success.

Last year, the committee gave out about 2,700 ribbons, which were broken down into 25 percent blue, 25 percent red, 25 percent yellow and 25 percent white.

These percentages have remained fairly consistent over the years, according to Crenshaw.

The Coronado Flower Show will take place on April 16 and 17.

The home front judging ends at noon on Wednesday. Coronado Patch will post the results as soon as we have them.

Please see the attached PDF for a full list of judging criteria and a sneak peak at the new design of the highly coveted blue ribbon. Also, be sure to check out our photos of last year’s Best in the City and some contenders for 2011.