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Horizontal Cordons

The horizontal cordon used to be very common for wall and house vines. The leaves and fruit grow from one or two horizontal, strictly trained arms. One-sided angles and T-shapes are possible. The vertical main trunk usually remains foliage-free.

Grapevines in Königsbrück / Saxony, ca. 1835


This cordon method was passed down as "Thomery-Cordon" from its French village namesake near Fontainebleau / Paris. Exceptional table grapes were grown in this way from quality (Gutedel/Chasselas) grapevines. The photos shown here were taken mostly in the east German region of Saale-Unstrut.

Spatial Requirements

For a Thomery cordon, you will need a horizontal strip 70 to 120 cm high. For thinner, higher bands of greenery, refer to our section on garlands. The optimal length for a cordon arm is 1.2 m, or 2.4 m for a bilateral cordon (T-shape), perhaps longer with today's vigorous grapevine varieties. If the field to cover is very wide, you'll want to plant several vines. For good sap distribution in the T-shape, the two arms should be of equal length. The trellis should be at least 0.5 metres from the ground, but heights of 5-6 m are also possible.


Wire rope systems and wooden espaliers are both fitting here. As a rule, a single vertical wire rope to guide the vine upwards with 2 - 4 horizontal wire ropes (spaced 25 - 35 cm apart) is sufficient. The arms are tied to the lowest wire rope, from where the shoots then grow each year into several new tiers, one above the other, and interlock with their tendrils. If not all the shoots hook on themselves, they can be tucked behind the wires or tied.

Training and Pruning

For the training procedure, refer to the illustrations below. On the horizontal arms (cordons), branches are developed at intervals of 15-20 cm. If these branches are developed *only* on the upper part of a single side (via buds every 2 to 4 eyes - 'cordon cut'), the whole arm will be more productive, robust, and longer-living, since the flow of sap will only be slowed down in the upper half of the arm. 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 tensioned wire ropes
Grapevine as cordon
Medium size cordon
Cordon trained grapevine
A handsome cordon in July
Horizontal cordon
A cordon after summer pruning and tying can look this 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 (foreground) and afterwards
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 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
Terrace with vine


1st / 2nd Year

Diagram 01: Growth and bud-burst 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 closely, every 4th bud is used); all others are rubbed off. In cold regions, 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: Budding. At the end of August, the new shoots can be trimmed back to about 1.0 - 1.5 m length to encourage maturation of the lower buds.

3rd Year

Diagram 07: The shoots coming from the previous years' buds are pruned to spurs just like the replacement spur will be. Depending on the growth of the vine, the cordon extensions are trimmed back to 3 - 5 new upper buds. Leave a distance of 15 to 20 cm between the already formed spurs and between the buds. If the cordons are to be extended further, then leave one lower bud at the end of each cane, 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 there is one) is trimmed back to a replacement spur.
Diagram 09: The fruiting canes grow from the spurs and buds left over from the winter pruning. In the next winter these shoots will themselves be pruned short. At the end of August, the shoots are trimmed back again to about 1.0 - 1.5 m length to ensure maturation of the lower buds.

Cordon Extension

Diagram 10: Different possibilities for extending a cordon by pruning or thinning: 0 = unpruned, 1 = with closely spaced buds on the extension, 2 = with loosely spaced buds, 3 = with offset densely arranged buds. The cordons should be extended by max. 0.8 m (Variation 1) each year, or 3 - 5 new branches respectively. If the extension is to reach areas much further away in a short time, then it can be 2 - 3 m 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 another 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 unvegetated gaps / to guide cordons around house corners.
Diagram 12: After budding in May; Variation 0 is not applicable due to irregular or weak budding, i.e., buds that have not opened.