Ludwig’s Roses, a huge rose farm north of Pretoria that has been running for more than 50 years, had been on my radar screen for a while. Several people told me I should visit, but that I must go at the height of summer when the roses are all in full bloom. Somehow the summers kept passing and I kept forgetting to put Ludwig’s in my “to-blog” list.

A perfect Ludwig's rose
A perfect Ludwig’s bloom.

Late last week, I finally remembered Ludwig’s at the right time of year. I mentioned it to my friend Fiver — one of my favorite fellow adventuresses, who is finally back in South Africa after an interminably long absence (thanks, covid-19) — and she was keen to make the hourlong trek to Ludwig’s with me. We set out this past Sunday afternoon.

Generally, I didn’t think much about roses before this visit. I mean sure, they’re pretty and they smell good and I’ve taken my fair share of rose photos in various gardens over the years. But Ludwig’s has turned me into a die-hard rose fan. I had such a good time at Ludwig’s and now I’m obsessed — OBSESSED, I tell you — with roses.

Entrance to Ludwig's Roses north of Pretoria
Ludwig’s massive welcome sign. The rose sculpture is by Ludwig’s artist daughter, Heike, who created a lot of the other art pieces on display around the farm and restaurant.

A Short History of Ludwig’s Roses

I recommend reading the Ludwig’s “About” page, which recounts the story of Ludwig and his farm in lovely detail. But here is a very short synopsis:

Ludwig Taschner was born in Germany in the 1940s, escaped from East Germany in 1960, and moved to South Africa soon afterward to work in the nursery business. He bought his rose farm in 1971, and has since become a leader in South African rose propagation and breeding. The Ludwig’s catalogue includes more than 1,000 different rose varieties.

Ludwig’s has several outlets around the country, but the OG Pretoria farm is the best place to go for a full Ludwig’s experience. (Not that I’ve been to any of the other locations but I can’t imagine them topping the experience I had.) In addition to the farm itself, there is a huge nursery selling every type of rose imaginable, a rose-themed restaurant, and a quirky gift shop. I loved it all.

Road into Ludwig's
Miami-style palm trees line the road into Ludwig’s.

Our Visit to Ludwig’s

Ludwig’s is about an hour’s drive from central Joburg, not far from the Dinokeng Game Reserve. Fiver and I left around 12:30 and arrived in time for a late lunch.

Rosetizer from the Rose Kitchen at Ludwig's
A refreshing “Rosetizer” — sparkling water mixed with rosewater syrup — at the Rose Kitchen, the Ludwig’s restaurant.
Pork schnitzel from the Rose Kitchen
The Rose Kitchen serves really nice food at particularly reasonable prices. My pork schnitzel with chips and salad cost R85 (about $5.50). Fiver ordered German sausages with potato salad. There are several German items on the menu (I assume as a tribute to Ludwig’s homeland) but plenty of non-German items, too. And of course there are numerous rose-flavored drinks, dishes, and desserts.

After lunch we had a quick browse around the shop, which is filled with rose-infused foods, beauty products, home decor, and everything else you can imagine that looks, smells, or tastes like roses.

Rose Rice Krispie treats
I have no idea why I didn’t buy one of these rose-flavored Rice Krispie Treats. What was I thinking?! I did buy some rose-flavored Greek biscuits though, and they were delicious.

Then came the highlight of our day: a tractor ride — or a “rose safari”, as I decided to call it — through the Ludwig’s rose fields. These rides last about 30 minutes and run throughout the day on weekends.

Tractor ride at Ludwig's Roses
Reckson, our tractor driver, takes us for a spin around Ludwig’s.
Ludwig's Rose Farm
The farm.
Roses of many colors at Ludwig's
Roses in all their glory.
Reckson gathers roses for the guests
In a most delightful rose safari twist, Reckson periodically alighted from the vehicle to cut roses and present them to his passengers.
Fiver with her bouquet
Everyone was so happy, especially Fiver.
Rose bouquet at Ludwig's
Our collection.

We finished our visit in the nursery section, where we ambled up and down the rows and rows of rose pots and took a million pictures of our favorite blooms (and ourselves).

Wandering the nursery
Wandering the nursery.
Fiver with roses
Heather at Ludwig's Roses
Pretending to be brides. I’m glad I wore a rose-colored skirt for this outing. (Photo: Fiver Löcker)

My mind boggled at the seemingly infinite number of rose colors and color combinations. I also loved reading the names of the different varieties, many of which are South African themed: Happy Birthday, Greensleeves, Rainbow Nation, Clocolan, Vodacom, Pearl of Bedfordview, Tawny Profusion, Brothers Grimm, Babsie Vorster.

Unfortunately I forgot to record the names of most of the roses I photographed.

Orange rose
Red and white rose
Purple rose
Happy Birthday Rose
I do remember that this is the “Happy Birthday” rose. It’s so freaking beautiful.
Rainbow Nation rose
And this is the “Rainbow Nation” — the rose I decided to buy. (A small rose bush from Ludwig’s costs about R160, or $10.) It seemed a fitting choice since it was named in honor of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who coined the term Rainbow Nation. Archbishop Tutu passed away about three weeks ago at the age of 90.

It was hard to leave Ludwig’s. It was 4:30, the afternoon light was just starting to soften, and we kept stopping to take pictures in the rose fields on our way to the exit.

Fiver at Ludwig's
Heather at Ludwig's
Photo: Fiver Löcker

We did eventually go, albeit reluctantly. I’ve been dreaming of roses ever since, wistfully leafing through the glossy Ludwig’s rose catalogue.

On Monday I planted Rainbow Nation in a pot on our deck. It’s blooming nicely.

Heather's Rainbow Nation rose
I have a feeling I’ll be returning to Ludwig’s soon for more roses.

Ludwig’s Rose Farm is at 61 Haakdoornlaagte, Pretoria. The farm is a bit tricky to find on Google Maps because there are several Ludwig’s outlets around Joburg and Pretoria; be sure to select the location simply labeled “Ludwig’s Roses”. It’s located north of central Pretoria, just off the N1 Highway at the “Pyramid, Wallmannsthal” flyover. The restaurant and farm are open seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Call 012-544-0144.

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