Sydney Percy-Lancaster, F.L.S., F.R.H.S., M.R.A.S. was born on 19 July 1886 at Meerut, India. His father, Percy Lancaster, was a banker and a talented amateur gardener, who went on to become the Secretary of the Agri Horticultural Society of India in Calcutta, India.
In 1902 Sydney Percy-Lancaster was apprenticed to the Agri-Horticultural Society and on his father’s death in 1904, he was appointed an Assistant. He continued collecting and hybridising the Alipore Canna Collection, started by his father in 1892, they were the most popular garden plant in India at that time. It was said that every Canna cultivar growing in India had been derived from the Agri-Horticultural Society, where the collection was domiciled.
In 1910, he became an Assistant Secretary and then the Secretary in 1914 until his retirement in October 1953, after a long service to the society and to Indian horticulture as a whole. Unlike most of his countrymen who packed up and return to England in 1947, upon the independence of India from the British Empire, Percy-Lancaster stayed on and made India his home. In 1947, he was the last Englishman to hold the post of Superintendent of Horticultural Operations, Government of India.
In November 1953, he joined the National Botanic Gardens at Lucknow as Senior Technical Assistant because of his early life’s association with Sikandar Bagh. He wished to spend the remainder of his life at Lucknow where the gardening traditions of his family began. A close friend of Doctor Khoshoo, he co-operated on the canna radiation experiments conducted at that time at Lucknow. He served the National Botanic Gardens of India until January 1959 when his son, Alick Percy-Lancaster, pressed him to join the family at Salisbury (Southern Rhodesia), taking with him plants from the Alipore Canna Collection for enjoyment in retirement.
In November 1961, after his wife’s death in 1960 and Alick’s death in 1961, he returned to the National Botanic Gardens, where he spent the last of his years.