KENNETT SQUARE, PA – Proprietors of the thousand-acre Longwood Gardens, one of the nation's leading botanical gardens, admitted today that every last one of the estate's plants – each grass blade, tree, flower, and leaf – is actually fake.
“It’s all been a colossal lie,” said Jerry Smith, chief groundskeeper. Fighting back tears, he explained that the garden's worldwide visitors are only seeing synthetic replicas of common and exotic flora. This explains the garden’s audits, which have always shown an average $15-per-year expenditure for water.
“Yes, I thought it was kind of low,” said John Martin, chief financial officer. “I figured the water company was giving us a discount since plants and flowers are so pretty and all.”
Apparently the garden's originators had planned on using real plants, but then declared, “How the hell can we afford to originate this? It’ll cost a fortune whether we use real or fake plants, but real ones will require very pricey maintenance. Let’s use fake ones. Who’s in?”
Astonishingly, no visitors have ever complained about the ersatz plants. Most seem not to notice, even thinking they smell beautiful scents wafting from the extremely convincing plastic and fabric facsimiles lining walkways and adorning indoor conservatories. But the biggest mystery is how the grounds-keeping staff never even knew about the hoax.
“I still can’t believe it,” says Jimmy Moore, a Longwood worker for 20 years. “I just thought I was a really amazing gardener, because all the plants I'm in charge of always look so healthy and never seem to need much trimming. It's a mighty easy job for getting paid $10 a week."
Moore's coworker Lorraine Jackson had a different reaction. “This makes no sense. I’ve seen the grass grow. I’ve mowed it. I’ve raked dead leaves. I’ve eaten the herbs. I’ve seen bugs feasting on the displays. Now bugs don’t lie. They wouldn’t buzz around fake plants.” There are three possible explanations for Jackson's experience. It may be that some of the fake plants were obtained from really, really, really, really talented manufacturers, who were able to endow their products with organic qualities, such as growth and nutrition. Second, it could be that some of the fake plants, while starting out as completely inert items, gradually adapted to being buried in soil, and ended up becoming "ert." But experts agree that most likely, workers like Jackson have simply become delusional from years of breathing in the plastic plants' off-gassing.
Nothing like this has ever been documented before, except of course at the famous Gardens of Versailles. At best, it represents the egregious entrepreneurship of a few. At worst, it foreshadows countless revelations of mistruths. The sun, for instance, might actually be a cardboard cutout. There just might be another business, in fact, exactly like show business. And you might actually be able to live without your liver, rendering your lifelong resistance to selling it and choosing instead to work for money laughable and pathetic.
Longwood’s Smith has apologized profusely, but when asked what he plans to do to rectify the situation, he says probably nothing unless he’s threatened with imprisonment. Meanwhile, even after hearing the news, one of the garden’s most seasoned habitués, Mildred Mason, told a reporter that she'll keep visiting. “I always wondered why I could go to Longwood and my allergies would never act up. I’m actually thrilled.” When the reporter replied by calling Mason a halfwit, she became violent and ordered her seeing eye dog to attack. Charges have not yet been filed.