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The Pilgrim rose The Right Roses English rose David Austin
'Rose Review' Series Color: Yellow David Austin roses Disease resistance: Good Flowering: Repeat flowering Fragrance: medium Ideal: Shady areas Rose: Climbing

The Pilgrim Rose Review | David Austin 1991

The Pilgrim


Fragrance Strength


Repeat Flowering


Bloom Size




Suitable for containers


Tolerance of shade


Disease resistance


Tolerance of poor soil


Few thorns


Best for cuttings



  • Among the best roses for many situations (8)
  • Gorgeous blooms
  • High petal count (140)
  • Flexible canes
  • Tolerating poor soil well
  • Average hardiness (zones 5 - 11)


  • Not floriferous
  • Medium fragrance strength
  • Can become very big (12 ft height)



English Climbing Rose bred by David Austin

David Austin

This variety has particularly beautiful blooms. The buds open to reveal many petalled cups, which gradually form large, flat rosettes. The colour is a very attractive shade of soft yellow, the petals paling prettily towards the edges. The flowers have a medium strength fragrance, which is a perfect balance of Tea and myrrh. It will quickly reach some height and still produce flowers and leaves lower down the plant. Named after the pilgrims in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. DavidᅠAustin, 1991.

The Right Roses:

David Austin introduced The Pilgrim for the UK in 1991. He named this rose after the characters in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

“The Canterbury Tales is a collection of 24 stories that runs to over 17,000 lines written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer between 1387 and 1400. In 1386, Chaucer became Controller of Customs and Justice of Peace and, in 1389, Clerk of the King’s work. It was during these years that Chaucer began working on his most famous text, The Canterbury Tales. The tales (mostly written in verse, although some are in prose) are presented as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together from London to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. The prize for this contest is a free meal at the Tabard Inn at Southwark on their return”.

 David Austin has name quite a few roses after famous religious characters and locations. For instance, Thomas à Becket, Winchester Cathedral. Therefore, rose ‘The Pilgrim’ is another one, following a consistent theme at David Austin roses.

The Pilgrim is a very gorgeous climbing rose. However, if we must compare it with other David Austin climbing roses, it may belong to the 2nd tier after some truly wonderful climbing roses such as The Generous Gardener, Claire Austin, and Wollerton Old Hall. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with that. The Pilgrim is as good as a lot of other climbing roses such as Bathsheba, Strawbery Hill, St. Swithun.


The Pilgrim is a very gorgeous climbing rose. However, if we must compare it with other David Austin climbing roses, it may belong to the 2nd tier after some truly wonderful climbing roses such as The Generous Gardener, Claire Austin, and Wollerton Old Hall.”

The Right Roses |



The Pilgrim rose: The pros


  • Best for 6ft walls and fences
  • Best for 10 ft walls and fences
  • Best for front of house
  • Best for around a doorway
  • Best for standard arch
  • Best for obelisk or pillar
  • Best for north walls
  • Best for poor soil


The Pilgrim has six strengths.

First, The Pilgrim is among the best roses for many situations (8 to be precise). For instance, it is best for 6ft walls and fences. However, given the relatively smaller number of climbing roses David Austin has introduced to the market so far, you should treat this detail with care. As you know, as The Pilgrim has a smaller number of other alternatives to be compared with, it may find it easier to stand out.

Second, The Pilgrim produces such gorgeous and elegant blooms. To many gardeners, The Pilgrim blooms must be among the prettiest David Austin roses. And, they are not wrong at all. The Pilgrim produces such lovely and large blooms (3.5 – 5’’ or 9 – 12 cm) with a very large count of petals (140).



We would like to provide you with some details about the David Austin roses having high petal counts. Charles Darwin produce full blooms with a large number of petals (140). Probably among those with the higher number of petal counts. The Ancient Mariner blooms have 160 petals. Young Lycidas blooms have 90 petals. Roald Dalh blooms have 55 petals. As far as we are aware, Spirit of Freedom is the variety having the highest number of petals (200). Therefore, the number of petals The Pilgrim can produce is very respectable.

Third, The Pilgrim is one of the David Austin roses that can tolerate shade best. It can do fine with just about 3 – 4 hours of direct sunlight. Therefore, The Pilgrim must be the rose for many challenging locations. We believe that any gardens would look so much better with a rose. If you have a quite shady garden, you really should consider The Pilgrim.

So far, David Austin has introduced 11 varieties which do very well in shady spots: Hyde Hall, Olivia Rose Austin, Eustacia Vye, Princess Anne, England’s Rose, Kew Gardens, R. Rugosa Alba, Lichfield Angel, Charles Darwin, Lady of Shalott, and Roald Dahl.

Fourth, The Pilgrim has very flexible canes. Therefore, you can train it on the walls or fences quite easily. This is such as an important characteristic for a climbing rose.

Fifth, The Pilgrim can tolerate poor soil very well. Many gardeners would like to grow climbing roses in front of their house (very close to the walls). On one hand, it could make your house a lot more attractive. However, it also could pose a big challenge for us. It is quite difficult to improve the soil at those spots (unless you would not mind damaging your house). The Pilgrim is such a great rose for this situation. However, the team at The Right Roses would not recommend gardeners leave our precious roses hungry. As you know, once we have a rose, we would love to treat her with the utmost care. They are like our children in some way. Therefore, no matter how well a rose can tolerate poor soil, personally we would not want it to happen.

Sixth, The Pilgrim’s hardiness is about average. It can tolerate Zones 5 – 11.


The Pilgrim rose: The cons

The Pilgrim has three main weaknesses. Unfortunately, its weaknesses are quite fatal.

First, The Pilgrim is not floriferous. This is quite disappointing, indeed. When planting a rose, many of us would expect three important traits: ‘floriferous’, ‘strong fragrance’, and ‘disease resistance’. In fact, The Pilgrim does not score high in any of those aspects. It does not repeat well, for sure. We have seen absolutely terrific roses such as Gertrude Jekyll. One of the strongest and delicious fragrance you can imagine. However, she behaves almost like a once-flowering rose. She repeats very little. The Pilgrim repeats better than Gertrude Jekyll. However, this is still not one of its strengths.

Second, its fragrance strength is only ‘medium’, not ‘strong’ or ‘very strong’.

David Austin has introduced 12 rose varieties best for fragrance including: Emily Bronte (2018), Harlow Carr, The Generous Gardener, Princess Alexandra of Kent, Gabriel Oak (2019), Gertrude Jekyll, Desdemona, R. Rugosa Alba, Claire Austin, Summer Song, Charles Darwin, The Poet’s Wife. According to our own experience, other David Austin roses are also heavenly scented, although they are not in David Austin’s list, e.g., Golden Celebration, Lady Emma Hamilton, Munstead Wood, Carolyn Knight. To a certain extent, Crown Princess Margareta also deserves a special mention.

We would like to make an extra comment regarding the fragrance strength of David Austin roses. For some David Austin roses, it may take them 2 or 3 years to live up to their true potential. For example, Princess Alexandra of Kent is extremely fragrant. However, in the first 2 or 3 years in your garden, her blooms hardly smell anything.

If you want some David Austin roses having an instant impact in terms of fragrance, you may want to consider 5 roses: Golden Celebration, Emily Bronte (2018), Lady Emma Hamilton, Munstead Wood, and Gabriel Oak (2019). They smell wonderful even in their first ever flush. You do not even have to put your nose into the blooms to detect their incredible scent. Just standing close to them is enough. Having 5 of them next to each other would make every morning of yours very delightful. Your garden is filled with their beautiful perfume.

If you really want us to rank those 5 incredibly fragrant varieties in terms of their fragrance strength, it is a tough job. The team at The Right Roses would include the first four roses (Golden Celebration, Emily Bronte (2018), Lady Emma Hamilton, Munstead Wood) in the first tier and Gabriel Oak (2019) in the second tier. David Austin may have a different idea. He thought that  Gabriel Oak (2019) was one of his most scented roses, while he did not include Golden Celebration, Lady Emma Hamilton, Munstead Wood into that prestigious list in 2019/2020. One of the possible reasons could be that David Austin would like to drive more attention to his newer introductions.

Third, The Pilgrim can become a very large climbing rose in your garden (up to 12ft). As a result, you need to save a lot of space for it to thrive.

The Pilgrim rose: The similarities

David Austin has introduced 18 yellow roses (2019). To some degree, The Pilgrim resembles The Poet’s Wife, which is a small shrub rose (3.5 ft x 3.5 ft). The Poet’s Wife can tolerate shade. However, she does not tolerate it as well as The Pilgrim. On the other hand, The Poet’s Wife produces such a strong, fruity fragrance. In fact, The Poet’s Wife is among the David Austin roses being best for fragrance. In addition, The Poet’s Wife can repeat much better than The Pilgrim.

The Pilgrim rose: The details


Height: Up to 12ft (3.75m) Color: Soft yellow Fragrance: Medium
Fragrance notes: Tea/myrrh Flowering: Repeat Flowering Suitable for containers: No

Ideal for: 6ft Wall or Fence, 10ft Wall or Fence, Front of House, Doorway, Obelisk or Pillar, Standard Arch, Shady Areas, Poor Soil

Sun exposure: Partial Sunlight Bloom size: Large (3.5 – 5’’ or 9 – 12.5 cm) Disease resistance: Good

Photo credit: The Right Roses | and

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