"Fixed this lone red tulip,
a woman's mouth of passion kisses,
a nun's mouth of sweet thinking,
here topping a straight line of green."
Introduced in 1955, this completely red lily-flowering tulip stands two feet tall or so, on slender stems that need at least a little protection from high winds to remain properly upright.
We planted ten bulbs in a tulip bed alongside the alley. 'Red Shine' blooms mid April to mid May. The pointy petals are reflexed, forming brilliant flame-like tulips.
They do not always reflex a great deal, compared to some lily-flowered tulips that are so reflexed & twisted they look tortured or corkscrewed.
The trait varies with 'Red Shine'; ideal blooms have well-arched petals, but occasionally they're not greatly distinct from regular single-late tulips, or wait until the last week of flower for the petals to take on the lily-flowering form.
It usually requires a sunny day for them to bend back really well. When they do so, a blue-black heart is revealed.
Lily-flowering tulips were the Turkish ideal for tulips, even though the pointed reflexed varieties were never the most common.
Bright red flowers of this type symbolized the blood of the Prophet's martyred son, Husayn, for just such tulips were said to have sprung from his shed blood.
At the same time such flowers symbolize the fiery devotion of the soul that reaches out to God, as the courtesan Lailah (whose name can be punned in Persian as Lalah, meaning Tulip) aches for the kiss of her beloved Murad, these two being the Sufi Romeo & Juliet.
When Carl Sandburg wrote those lines for a red tulip as "a woman's mouth of passion kisses/ a nun's mouth of sweet thinking," it was almost as though he had been in a Sufi frame of mind.
Lily-flowering tulip bulbs should be planted in autumn about six inches deep & four to five inches apart. They can sometimes be longlived & produce for many years running, meaning they perennialize well; but do not increase their numbers, meaning they do not naturalize.
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