[Reading level: C2 – Mastery]
When Meredith Dean pictured her May wedding, she imagined her guests walking through a meadow of wildflowers. The bridesmaids would carry bouquets, the groomsmen would wear boutonnieres, and a circle of flowers would surround Dean and her beau as they exchanged vows. A wall of flowers would serve as a backdrop for photos. Vases of buds would run down the center of long dining tables in a barn in New York’s Catskills. Still more flowers would hang above the dance floor.
Dean had chosen the date so spring blooms would be at their peak: bright yellow daffodils, fragrant purple hyacinth, puffy peonies, hydrangea, and, of course, roses. She hadn’t set a budget yet, leaving it to her floral designer to decide how many stems to order. “It would be a lot,” she says.
As reports of U.S. Covid-19 cases mounted in early March, Dean, a 29-year-old who works at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, checked the news obsessively. When authorities cautioned against holding events for more than 250 guests, her colleagues told her not to worry – the wedding was still months off. And then on March 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Americans should avoid gathering in groups larger than 50 for the next eight weeks. Dean’s wedding was seven weeks away, and she was expecting about 100 guests.
There wasn’t much for her and her fiancé, David Bradley, a research scientist for a pharmaceutical company, to discuss. Neither of them would put friends and family at risk. The next day, her first working from home in New Jersey, Dean called her wedding planners and told them she wanted to postpone the celebration. She was calm on the call, but when she hung up, she sobbed. “I’m not ashamed of having feelings,” she says.
A delayed wedding is hardly a disaster during a pandemic that’s killing thousands of people a day, as Dean is quick to note. But in greenhouses from the highlands of Ecuador and Colombia to the shores of Kenya’s Lake Naivasha, growers were already stacking roses in compost heaps. Within days of the lockdown orders in the U.S. and Europe, as events were canceled, restaurants closed, and offices emptied, demand for stems evaporated.
The crash of the $8.5 billion global trade in cut flowers shows how quickly and distinctively the new coronavirus is disrupting supply chains, even in places where it isn’t yet pervasive. After only a few weeks of quarantine, Vermont farmers are dumping milk in manure pits because of canceled orders from schools. Crops are withering in Europe as closed borders prevent migrant farmworkers from harvesting them. American chicken wing prices cratered before what’s normally a March Madness-driven boom. In India, farmers are unloading ripening grapes at one-sixth the usual price. It’s an open question whether, when consumers start spending again, their former suppliers will still be around to sell to them.
One of the first people Dean texted after she postponed her wedding was her floral designer, Laura Clare, who works from the first floor of a quaint gray building with white trim in Bernardsville, N.J. Clare, who’s been in business for 20 years, sells bouquets during the week, and on weekends she designs elaborate arrangements for big events. Her wedding clients typically spend from $5,000 to $10,000.
Dean was one of the first brides to contact Clare after the CDC recommendation. Within a few days, all Clare’s clients planning April weddings were scrambling to pick dates in the fall. She had to tell the brides that some flowers, such as cherry blossoms, might not be available then. Soon, as the number of Covid-19 cases in New Jersey passed 1,000, the governor ordered all but essential businesses to close. Florists didn’t make the cut.
With her supply wilting, Clare started giving bouquets away, delivering some to older parishioners at a local church. She furloughed her five full-time employees and canceled her flower orders, which usually total at least $5,000 a week. She’s applying for a Small Business Administration loan that would let her put her workers back on the payroll. “I’ve been through 9/11,” Clare says. “I’ve been through Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Sandy. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
Flowers are usually ordered about two weeks in advance, so Clare hadn’t yet placed orders with her wholesaler in New Jersey for Dean’s wedding. But she’d been planning to request some hard-to-find blossoms from an auction in the Netherlands. More than 40% of the world’s flower exports pass through that country’s auction houses.
[To be continued]
meadow /ˈmed.əʊ/ (n): đồng cỏ
bridesmaid /ˈbraɪdz.meɪd/ (n): phù dâu
bouquet /buˈkeɪ/ (n): bó hoa
groomsman /ˈɡruːmz.mən/ (n): phù rể
boutonniere /ˌbuː.tɒnˈjeər/ (n): hoa cài ngực áo
beau /bəʊ/ (n – informal): người yêu
exchange vows /ɪksˈtʃeɪndʒ vaʊz/ [C2] (v): trao nhau lời thề (đám cưới)
daffodil /ˈdæf.ə.dɪl/ (n): hoa thủy tiên
fragrant /ˈfreɪ.ɡrənt/ [C2] (adj): thơm
hyacinth /ˈhaɪ.ə.sɪnθ/ (n): hoa lục bình
puffy /ˈpʌf.i/ (adj): phồng
peonies /ˈpiː.ə.ni/ (n): hoa mẫu đơn
hydrangea /haɪˈdreɪn.dʒə/ (n): hoa cẩm tú cầu
stem /stem/ (n): cành hoa
mount /maʊnt/ [C2] (v): ngày càng tăng
obsessively /əbˈses.ɪv.li/(adv): một cách đầy ám ảnh
fiancé /fiˈɒn.seɪ/ (n): chồng sắp cưới
sob /sɒb/ [B2] (n): khóc nức nở
stack /stæk/ (v): chất đống
compost heap /ˈkɒm.pɒst hiːp/ (n): thùng ủ phân trộn
evaporate /ɪˈvæp.ər.eɪt/ (v): bốc hơi, biến mất
distinctively /dɪˈstɪŋk.tɪv.li/ (adv): một cách khác biệt
pervasive /pəˈveɪ.sɪv/ (adj – formal): lan tràn khắp nơi
manure pit /məˈnjʊər pɪt/ (n): hố phân
wither /ˈwɪð.ər/ (v): khô héo
crater (v – mainly US): (giá cả) giảm mạnh
ripening /ˈraɪ.pə.nɪŋ / (adj): đang chín (hoa quả)
quaint /kweɪnt/ [C2] (adj): cổ kính
trim /trɪm/ (n): đường viền
elaborate /iˈlæb.ər.ət/ [C2] (adj): công phu
scramble to do sth /ˈskræm.bəl/ (v): tranh nhau làm gì
cherry blossom /ˈtʃer.i ˈblɒs.əm/ (n): hoa anh đào
all but sth (expression): ngoại trừ cái gì
make the cut (idiom): thoát khỏi việc bị loại bỏ
wilt /wɪlt/ (v): khô héo
parishioner /pəˈrɪʃ.ən.ər/ (n): giáo dân
furlough sb /ˈfɜː.ləʊ/ (v): cho ai đó nghỉ phép
payroll /ˈpeɪ.rəʊl/ (n): danh sách trả lương
in advance /ədˈvɑːns/ [B1] (adv): trước
auction /ˈɔːk.ʃən/ [C1] (n): đấu giá
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