Dr Ronald Mackenzie

One of the great galanthophiles, died on the 7th of November.

credit:Clive Nichols

An Oxfordshire GP, Ronald Mackenzie pioneered the commercial propagation of snowdrops through twin scaling and chipping. This propagation technique involves cutting the bulb into multiple sections (slices), each with a piece of basal plate and at least two scales to nourish the growing bulblet. In doing so, one can increase snowdrop production substantially, as one bulb can produce 50 offsets which flower within 4 years.

Mackenzie established The Snowdrop Company in 1991, producing new stock with the talents of the late Ruby and David Baker. Through his propagation technique and distribution through the company, varieties were spread to a wider audience, beyond the expert Galanthophiles, enabling gardeners to acquire rare snowdrops and ensure their current popularity. Through his passion, Mackenzie is credited for bringing snowdrops out of the doldrums.

The Snowdrop Company ceased trading in 2014 but Mackenzie continued to grow many wonderful snowdrops in his garden. A regular award winner for snowdrop displays at RHS shows, he received the Alpine Garden society Kath Dryden Award in 2003 for recognition of his work.

His finest discovery is the beautiful yellow-flowered Galanthus ‘Ronald Mackenzie’ gracilis, the first of its kind. This snowdrop has one of the most unusually deep yellow colours. Reportedly tricky to grow, but there are ample success stories.

Mackenzie’s wife and children are all commemorated by snowdrops bearing their name, so too his talented partners Ruby and David Baker.

A few tributes on instagram..

“As befitted his profession, he was a kind and caring man whose medical connections were often of great help to his friends but could not save him from his own long decline. Farewell dear Ronald”, John Grimshaw, Director of the Yorkshire Arboretum and Tree Health Centre (Do read his full tribute).

“Lovely kind man with such a beautiful speaking voice. The first Rupert Golby Vincent Square double act was such a galanthophilic galvaniser”. Tania Compton, author and designer.

“…he was a lovely man, a true gentleman. He used to visit us when I worked at the Cotswold Wildlife Park (one of my duties was taking care of the Winter Garden). Helped us to keep our collection of snowdrops correctly identified. My condolences to his family”, Harriet Rycroft, author and gardener.

“Another ‘Immortal’ leaves us but leaves behind arguably one of the finest yellows”, Dean Croucher, Gardener, West Somerset.