The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree is as Southern as sweet tea. It is a mystery full of flowers, food, and friendship.
The time is May 1930. The place is Darling, Alabama. The ladies of the town's garden club, The Darling Dahlias, have just inherited a new clubhouse upon the death of the club's founder Mrs. Dahlia Blackstone who died at the age of 82.
There is Miss Elizabeth Lacy the club's president who works for an attorney and writes a gardening column for the weekly newspaper. Eternal optimist Ophelia Snow is the wife of the mayor. Verna Tidwell is the clerk in the probate office, is naturally suspicious, and makes a splendid sleuth. Myra May is the phone operator which makes her privy to all sorts of information. Beulah Trivette is owner of the Beauty Bower, a hair and nail salon where much gossip and news is discussed.
Next to gardening, the Dahlia's love to eat. Here's a typical Sunday dinner: fried chicken with new potato salad, sliced tomatoes sprinkled with dill, and green beans and okra cooked up with onions and bacon. For dessert there might be ribbon cake with peach filling or thumbprint cookies filled with raspberry jam. All served up with cold rosemary lemonade.
Are you hungry yet?
Author Susan Wittig Albert writes evocatively of the South, the attitudes of the time, and the close friendships of the women. And, she throws in lots of intriguing historic details. But know this, there is plenty of mystery here — was the death of Bunny Scott an accident or foul play? What about the convict who has escaped from the prison farm? And, who is that digging at night behind the garden club house?
Well, all will be revealed, including, I hope, the relevance of the cucumber tree.
I am quite happy to spend time with the Dahlias in pleasant Darling, Alabama where white kitchen curtains are crisply starched, rockers on wide front porches gently squeak, and fireflies light up the warm Southern nights.
Quick! Someone pour me a glass of sweet tea. And where are my pearls?