Red Rum

'Red Rum'
Dwarf Tree Mallow or Shrub Mallow

"With many a curve my banks I fret
By many a field and fallow,
And many a fairy foreland set
With willow-weed & mallow."

-Alfred Lord Tennyson


Red RumLavatera x clementii 'Red Rum' introduced in 2000 is said to be a red-flowering Bush Mallow as opposed to the regular pink. But to speak of it honestly it is merely a darker than average pink verging toward magenta, with burgundy twigs.

A true red lavatera may someday appear from the plant breeders, but as yet there is no such animal. Although it's possible this cultivar was alleged to be red only so that some Stephen King fan could name it 'Red Rum' (Murder backwards), in honor of the novel The Shining, it's more likely it was named for a race horse named Red Rum who made history before King. Red Rum was the only horse in the history of the Grand National Steeplechase to win three times, & remains as famous in England as Sea Biscuit has been in America.

Though not truly red 'Red Rum' certainly is a wonderful shrub, compact & semi-dwarf at four by four feet or a mite larger, & extremely floriferous starting no later than July, & reblooming into Autumn, with larger white stamens than other bush mallows.

Its lobed felty leaves are evergreen or nearly so in zones 7 & 8, but it can be grown in much colder zones (to zero degrees Fahreheit) where it is deciduous or may nearly die to the ground each winter & return in spring.

The breeder was English plant hunter & hybridizer Ken Rigney of Southampton. It is generally being sold without mention of its species heritage, but I am pretty certain it is of the Lavatera x clementii group derived from crossing L. olbia and L. thuringiaca. It in fact closely resembles the earlier cultivar L. x clementii 'Burgundy Wine.' Such hybrids are often sold as L. thuringiaca, & a few plant catalogs have decided to list it so.

In an extensive garden of friends for whom I've done landscaping, I placed one 'Red Rum' amidst similar-sized Rockroses to vary the mixed-border texture in a drought-hardy sun garden at the front of the grounds facing the road. 'Red Rum' would also be suited to a small garden where large mallows would be too overbearing, or as a container plant that doesn't need much attention to flourish at the high end of vigor.

It can adjust to partial shade but really needs full sun to bloom its best. It likes a pretty hard pruning in spring ahead of new growth, but if it is not pruned in some years it will still look pretty good. It blooms on new wood, however, & I wouldn't let it go longer than two years between hard prunings.

See my primary bush mallow article:
'Barnsley' Bush Mallow


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