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A flower for Iranganie

By Tahnee Hopman, Pic by M.A. Pushpa Kumara

Meet W.D.L Kusumpala, an artist in his own right. His art- the testimony to the perfect combination, or delicate balance between art and technology, is an orchid. But not just one orchid- he is not content with that- his life’s work comprises nurturing over 20,000 varieties of all shapes and sizes.

A dazzling riot of colour spreads across two acres of land- a welcome sight after the dusty journey through Panadura, to one of Sri Lanka’s largest orchid nurseries. One flower in particular, stands out from the large crowd and is given pride of place today. Its thick petals are a delicate butter yellow overlaid with pink, and it is a startling change from the lively, vibrant hues around it.

W.D.L Kusumpala

Iranganie Serasinghe

Dendrobium Iranganie Serasinghe is literally one of a kind as it only grows here in this plot of land (for now) and is the first flower to be named after the veteran film star and environmental activist.

“The flower,” explains Mr. Kusumpala, “is a sign of Iranganie Serasinghe’s love of nature and her commitment to its conservation, and so it is something that is special to all of us.”

First created in 2003- a product of parents Burana Sansi and Bobby Mesina, Dendrobium Iranganie Serasinghe was registered with the Royal Horticultural Society, UK in 2003 and has only recently begun to bloom. The reason for this, according to Mr. Kusumpala, is that when bred using tissue culture and cloning, the plants take a few years to flower.

Whilst he nurtured a love for horticulture for many years, Kusumpala’s first career was in the army. “It was only shortly after I began that career, he recalls, “that I realized that the military was not for me and turned to what I loved most.” Having studied at the University of Colombo, he had all the expertise needed to start a nursery. Despite many challenges at first, he built up the nursery to what it is today, all on his own and now has a dedicated team of workers to assist him on the site. “All other aspects of running the nursery- from new creations to administration; are handled by myself.”

Dendrobium Iranganie Serasinghe.

The experience has more than paid off- as seen in the significant improvement in the flowers due to his new system of planting the orchids in a mixture of granite chips and coir fibre. This and a few other tricks of the trade coupled with his commitment, have brought him to where he is today- a prolific breeder and grower of orchids- some of which have been named after President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, former president Chandrika Kumaratunga and Otara Gunewardene.

Every orchid passing through this artist’s hands goes through the same level of care- “As with newborn infants, these young orchid plants need constant care lavished on them; and like teledramas and songs you need to always create new things- because there is tough competition out there, and people’s tastes keep on changing.”

The development of Dendrobium Iranganie Serasinghe was no different.The orchid will be presented to the veteran actress on February 13, at the Supiri Mal Dekma plant exhibition to be held at the Vihara Maha Devi Park from February 13-16.