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Vertical Cordon ("Columnar Vines" / "Schnurbaum")

This form is particularly suitable for narrow, vertical areas and/or if the quality of table grapes is to be very high. What may look rather rigid and somewhat unnatural at first glance, soon enough surpasses any other "free" espalier form: there is no tedious sorting of shoots; pruning becomes a routine and the stem framework remains very manageable.


This training method most likely originates from France and was described in Germany by Hardy / Jäger in their work "Obstbaumschnitt" ("Fruit Tree Pruning") as "Herzstamm" ("Heart Stem") in Erfurt in 1855.

Spatial Requirements

Not including the planting area, each cordon needs a wall area of approx. 0.6m x 1m, max. 1.5m x 2.5m. For wider areas, several vines are planted, spaced at approx. 1.5m centres. For high walls, several cordons are trained to staggered heights (see diagrams below).

Trellis Systems

These require a vertical wire rope, but better three wire ropes (spaced 30 - 40cm apart) to allow young shoots to twine or be tied to wires on both sides. For very narrow areas, use 2 wire ropes and guide the shoots to one side only (see photo). Timber trellises are suitable as well.

Training and Pruning

Refer to diagrams. The yearly vertical extension is about 50 to 80cm; i.e, approx. 4 new side shoot positions. In the end, there will be max. 8 - 12 side shoot positions or a max. distance of about 2m between the lowest and highest canes; otherwise, the lower shoots will fail. The trunk will end approximately 50cm below the top of the trellis. Once the training is finished, spur pruning follows. Ideally the green shoots are either tied to or tucked behind the single/two outer wire ropes. The uppermost side shoot position requires Rod Pruning, because growth is very vigorous there. At a later stage and over the course of 2 - 3 years, switch to cane pruning of several side shoot positions (see diagrams below), starting from the uppermost cane down to the lowest, leaving only about 4 - 6 side shoot positions per cordon and increased distance between the individual tiers...to be followed by summer pruning if necessary.

Vertical trained grapevine on wires or wooden planks.
Vertical trained grapevine
Vines as vertical cordons, bud-burst/young shoots
Small grapevine-cordons
Young cordons each on 2 - 3 espalier stakes, bud burst
Vertical cordon
Vertical cordons on espalier walls to the left and below the circular path
Winery "Castle Wackerbarth" / Radebeul
An entire greening area is covered by three vertical cordons
Vertical cordon with vine
Photo illustrating Diagram 11 (see further below). The trained cordon and its extension are firmly tied to the timber stake with either Soft Rubber Tape (Elasto-Band).
Training as vertical cordon
Small "columnar" vine on a small pillar, with predominantly unilateral shoots, on 2 wires, before winter pruning.
Small cordon
Harvest time on vertical cordon with cane pruning, variety "Regent," horizontal wires.
Grapes on an espalier
Cordons, spur and cane pruned.
Small hut with vine
Small cordon, spur pruned, bud burst in spring
Cone cut
"Columnar vine," spur pruned, the cordon extension at the top is clearly visible.
Vertical cordon
Old cordon, spur pruned on 3 wires, during leaf fall, before winter pruning
Old cordon trained grapevine
Small "columnar" vine on a small pillar, with predominantly unilateral shoots, on 2 wires, before winter pruning.
Green wall, grapevines
Espalier wall after winter pruning, in the centre the vertical cordon, predominantly cane pruned.
columnar vine


1st / 2nd Year

Diagram 01: Growth and thinning in the first year
Cordon trained
Diagram 02: Winter pruning in 1st / 2nd year
Diagram 03: Rubbing off buds in the spring of the 2nd year. Shoot growth arising from the 5 remaining buds, schematic.

3rd Year

Diagram 04: The 4 lower canes are spur pruned, the upper one is used to extend the cordon, pruned back to 5 eyes and tied to the wire.
Diagram 05: After winter pruning
Diagram 06: Bud burst in spring. At the end of August, the shoots can be trimmed back to approx. 1.0 to 1.5m to ensure maturation of the lower buds.

4th Year

Diagram 07: Trimming back the upper, newly grown side shoots to spurs and the leader to 5 eyes.
Diagram 08: Removing superfluous canes and stubs of older spurs. Usually the cane further away from the main trunk is cut off completely.
Diagram 09: Pruning the remaining canes back to spurs with 2 eyes.
Diagram 10: Pruning summary, Diagrams 07-09 combined
Diagram 11: After winter pruning: if by then, the final height of the vine has been reached (see above under "Training and Pruning"), then the leader is also shortened to 2 - 3
Diagram 12: Bud burst in spring

Switch to Cane Pruning

Form 01: Alternating Pruning: the pruning type for each cane switches every year from spur to cane pruning and vice versa ("Alternating Pruning"). This gives the canes - which may have weakened by cane pruning and high yields - a chance to recover during the following year, and once again produce strong canes for another cane prune.
Form 02: "Arched Canes": Here some canes have already failed, the remaining canes were cane pruned and - because the wires were horizontal - very slightly bent and tied to the wires. "Back-up" eyes on the shoot positions are not required, because usually all eyes on these slightly bent canes grow equally strongly, producing strong canes close to the shoot position for the following pruning.
Form 03: "Semi-Circular Canes": Here the canes of all side shoot positions have been bent and tied into "semi-circular arches," because the supports are vertical. This way, the shoots from the many buds grow at different heights, which makes for a better spatial distribution of the grapes than on the shallow arches, and the grape bunches will not be too tightly packed. The distance between the side shoot positions on each side should be at least 60 - 80cm.

Other Varieties

Combination of alternating cordons (varying heights) and palmette (several parallel arms) with spur pruning. For a system with cane pruning, the distance of 1.5m between vines needs to be increased to about 2m. If necessary, the arms of the two double palmettes can be trained close together so that there are only 2 main cordons instead of 4 (see inset top right), and the vines can even be planted into the same planting area ("quiver style" planting).
For taller heights or if a greening area is to be covered quickly, cordons of alternating heights - each developed in their individual tier - are useful.
Double palmettes on a timber trellis after winter pruning to spurs.
Palmette Wein