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Horizontal Cordons

In earlier times, the horizontal cordon method was common for training grapes on house façades. Foliage and fruit grow from one or two horizontal, strictly trained arms or cordons. Unilateral cordons (1 angle) and bilateral cordons (T-shape) are possible; the vertical main trunk usually remains without foliage.



The cordon tradition was passed down as "Thomery-Cordon" from a French village of the same name near Fontainebleau / Paris. Outstanding table grapes were grown in this way from quality grapevines. The photos shown here were taken mostly in the east German region of Saale-Unstrut.

Spatial Requirements

Horizontal bands usually 70 - 120 cm height, narrower strips are greened with garlands. The optimal length for a unilateral cordon used to be 1.2 m in Thomery, or 2.4 m for a bilateral cordon. For contemporary grafted and vigorous vines, these can be longer; however for covering very extensive areas, it is best to train several vines. If at all possible, the two arms of a bilateral cordon should be of the same length. The minimal distance above the ground is about 0.5 m, but heights of 5 - 6 m are possible.

Trellis Systems

Wire rope systems and wooden espaliers. Usually a vertical wire rope to guide the vine upwards, and 2 - 4 horizontal wire ropes (spaced 25 - 35 cm apart). The cordons or arms are tied to the lowest wire rope; from there the new shoots grow each year into to several superimposed tversand interlock with their tendrils. Shoots which are not entangled with others are either tucked behind the wires or tied to them.

Training and Pruning

For the training procedure, refer to the illustrations below. On the horizontal arms or cordons, vertical shoot positions (VSP) spaced about 15 - 20 cm apart are developed. If these VPS are rigorously developed from the upper side of the cordon (from every 2nd or 4th bud), the cordon will be more productive and longer-living, because there are no sap flow obstructions in one half of the arm cross-section. Only cordon extensions are usually trained from buds on the lower side of the cordon. 

The canes later undergo pruning, usually spur pruning or, if some fail, rod pruning; for some special varieties and for very high yields- also cane pruning. If necessary, additional summer pruning.

Unilateral and bilateral cordons on horizontally arranged wire ropes
Grapevine as cordon
Medium size cordon
Cordon trained grapevine
"Internal life" of a cordon in July
Horizontal cordon
A cordon after summer pruning... tying can look that tidy!
Trellis with vine
Cordon trained along the base of a house, spur pruned
Cordon on the base of a house
Cordons before winter pruning (in front) and afterwards (at back)
Cordon pruning
A rare case but very high-yielding: predominantly cane-pruned cordon and fruiting canes tied to wire rope
Cane pruning, vine
Wide cordon grown from just one vine
Vine Cordon
Bilateral cordon at harvest time
Bilateral cordon at harvest time
Cordons before spur pruning, historic illustration: Each tier is made up of a separate vine -- this is a particularly reliable and secure variation, which prevents the lower areas from becoming bare.
Historic cordons
Spur pruned cordon, on 3 wire ropes similar to cable system 1060
Cordon training
Training 2 tiers of cordons from one grapevine is also possible.
Espalier band or "ribbon" with bilateral and unilateral cordons. For more photos, go to winter pruning.
Vine as cordon
Several cordons on a wooden espalier
House vine on a trellis
Cordons on a natural stone wall
Grapevine on a wall
Two unilateral cordons on the wall of a blacksmith's workshop
Village forge with grapevine
Horizontal cordon on a balustrade/railing
Terrace with vine


1st / 2nd Year

Diagram 01: Growth and bud-burst in the first spring
Cordon training
Diagram 02: Careful bending and tying of cane onto lowest trellis wire
Grapevine trained as cordon
Diagram 03: An axillary shoot arising from the bending point is also carefully bent and tied, others are trimmed back to 1 leaf.

2nd Year

Diagram 04: Winter pruning: 2 upper buds per cordon and one for cordon extension are kept.
Diagram 05: In contrast to a vertical cordon, only every 2nd bud is used here (if eyes are spaced very tightly, every 4th bud is used); all others are rubbed off. In cold regions (e.g., east of the Elbe River in Germany), one bud on the lower part of the main trunk can be kept as a back-up or replacement spur, in case of severe frost damage.
Diagram 06: Shoot growth of the remaining buds. At the end of August, the shoots are trimmed back to about 1.0 - 1.5m length to ensure maturation of the lower buds.

3rd Year

Diagram 07: The shoots grown from the "upper" buds in the previous year are spur pruned to form vertical shoot positions and, if appropriate, will undergo spur pruning in the future-- same for the replacement spur. Depending on the growth habit of the vine, the cordon extensions are trimmed back to 3 - 5 new upper buds. The distance between buds, as well as between buds and already formed vertical shoot positions, should be about 15 - 20 cm. If the cordons are to be extended further, then a "lower" bud at the end of each cane has to be kept, as per Diagram 04/05.
Diagram 08: Rubbing off buds in winter, thinning young shoots in spring; 3 - 5 upper buds remain per cordon, and if required, one lower bud at the end of each cordon for extension. The lower shoot - if present - is trimmed back to a replacement spur.
Diagram 09: Fruit canes growing from the 4 finished vertical shoot positions-- spurs and from the buds kept during winter pruning. From the latter ones, new spur positions will be formed during the next winter pruning. At the end of August, the shoots are trimmed back again to about 1.0 - 1.5m length to ensure maturation of the lower buds.

Cordon Extension

Diagram 10: Different variations to extend a cordon by pruning or thinning: 0 = unpruned, 1 = with densely spaced buds on the extension, 2 = with loosely spaced buds, 3 = with offset densely arranged buds. The cordons should be extended by max. 0.8m (Variation 1) each year, or 3 - 5 new vertical shoot positions respectively. If the extension is to reach areas much further away in a short time, then it can be 2 - 3m long; however, in this case, only 4 - 5 upper, suitably spaced buds (Variation 2) or buds in a suitable position (Variation 3) are to be kept. If required, a "lower" bud is to be kept again at the end of the shoot for repeated extension.
Diagram 11: After bud-break
Variation 1: for cordon extensions which are to be high-yielding and spur pruned
Variation 2: for cordon extensions which are cane pruned and for garlands, for which rapid lengthening and sparser foliage is desired.
Variation 3: for bridging intermediate wall spaces, e.g., also to guide cordons around house corners.
Diagram 12: After budding in May; Variation 0 is not applicable due to weak or irregular budding / buds that have not opened.