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Simple Vertical Cordon ("Columnar Vines")

This form is particularly suitable for narrow, vertical areas and/or for cultivating high quality table grapes. What may look rather rigid and somewhat unnatural at first glance, soon enough surpasses any "free" form espaliered vine: there is no tedious sorting of shoots, pruning becomes routine, and the trunk-stem structure remains very manageable.

Vine espalier with vertical cordons near Rittergut Teichnitz / Saxony, around 1835


This training method most likely hails back to France, from where it then migrated to the rest of Europe. It 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 pit, each cordon needs a wall area of approx. 0.6 m x 1 m (max. 1.5 m x 2.5 m). For wider areas and the planting of several vines, space them about 1.5 m apart. To cover higher or larger surfaces, plant and train cordons at staggered heights (see diagrams below).

Trellising / Support

To support a vertical line of vines, install at least one wire rope; three would be ideal, spaced 30 to 40 cm 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). Classic wooden trellises are also very suitable with this method.

Training and Annual Pruning

The diagrams at the bottom of this page will assist you. The yearly vertical growth is about 50 to 80 cm; i.e, about 4 new branches. Once it has reached a certain maturity, there will be max. 8 - 12 branches or a max. distance of about 2 m between the lowest and highest canes; otherwise, the lower shoots will fail. The vertical cordon will end approximately 50 cm below the top of the trellis. After the framework has been formed, spur pruning (short pruning) follows, ideally with the green shoots tied to or tucked behind the single wire or two outer wires. The vigorous growth of the uppermost part of the vine requires rod pruning (medium pruning). At a later stage and over the course of 2 - 3 years, switch to cane pruning (long pruning) the several branches (see diagrams below), starting at the top of the cordon, moving to the lower ones, leaving only about 4 - 6 branches per cordon and increased distance between the individual tiers... to be followed by yearly summer pruning if needed.


Vertically trained grapevine on wires or wooden posts
Vertically trained grapevine
Vines as vertical cordons, bud-burst/young shoots
Small grapevine-cordons
Young cordons, each on 2 - 3 slat wooden espalier, budding in spring
Vertical Cordon
Vertical cordons on trellis walls to the left and below along the circular path
Winery "Castle Wackerbarth" / Radebeul -  Espalier
Three vertical cordons fill a climbing field here.
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 a hard binder or soft rubber tape (Elasto-Band).
Training as vertical cordon
Small vertical cordon on a narrow pillar, supported by 2 stainless steel wires, predominantly unilateral shoots (shoots led to one side), before winter pruning
Small Cordon
Harvest time on vertical cordon with cane pruning, grapevine variety "Regent," horizontal wires
Grapes on an espalier
Cordons; spur and cane pruned
A winegrower's hut
Small cordon, spur pruned, bud burst in spring
Spur-pruned vine
"Columnar vine," spur pruned; the cordon extension at the top is clearly visible.
Vertical cordon
Old spur-pruned (short pruned) cordon on 3 wires, during leaf fall, before winter pruning
Old cordon trained grapevine
Cordons on a small pillar with horizontally tensioned wires (predominantly unilateral shoots), before winter pruning
Green wall, grapevines
Espalier wall after the winter pruning; the vertical cordon in the centre, predominantly cane pruned
Vertical Cordon / 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: Bud break in spring of the 2nd year. Shoot growth arising from the 5 remaining buds

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 about 1.0 to 1.5 m to ensure maturation of the lower buds.

4th Year

Diagram 07: The new shoots are pruned back to 2 eyes and the leading shoot to 5 eyes.
Diagram 08: Removal of superfluous shoots and stubs of older canes... usually the cane farthest away from the main trunk is cut off completely.
Diagram 09: The remaining shoots/branches are pruned back to 2-eyed canes
Diagram 10: Summary of pruning steps 07-09
Diagram 11: After winter pruning: if by then, the desired height of the vine has been reached (see above under "Training and Pruning"), then the leading shoot/branch is also shortened to 2 - 3 eyes.
Diagram 12: Bud burst in spring

Switch to Cane Pruning

Form 01: Alternate Pruning: for each shoot from which the fruiting shoots will grow, the type of pruning switches every year from spur (short) to cane (long) pruning and back again ~ "alternating pruning." This gives the canes, which may have been weakened by cane pruning and high yields, a chance to recover during the following year, and to develop sufficiently vigorous shoots/canes for the cane (long) pruning that will follow.
Form 02: "Arched Canes": the remaining canes have been cane (long) pruned and - because the wires were horizontal - very slightly bent and tied to the wire ropes (so, horizontally). It is not necessary to leave replacement spurs on the branches; on a horizontal rod all eyes grow with the same vigor; even close to the branch, the shoots will be strong enough for the following pruning.
Form 03: "Semi-Circular Canes" / Half-Arches : Here the canes of all branches have been bent and, because the supports are vertical, tied into half arches. This way the new shoots will be at staggered heights, allowing the grapes to be better distributed so they do not press into each other (in contrast to simple arched canes; see previous photo). The distance between the branches on each side should be 60-80 cm.

A few more special forms...

Cordons at staggered heights in a palmette formation (several parallel arms), spur (short) pruned. For a cane-pruned version, the 1.5 m wide spacing must be increased to about 2 m. If needed, the arms of each double palmette can be arranged so that only two axes, instead of four, are created (see diagram here in yellow) and the vines can even be planted together in one planting pit ~ "quiver planting."
If you want the greenery to reach a significant height, or if you want it to cover an area quickly, several vines planted side by side, with the foliage of each vine covering a different 'tier,' is a useful way to go.
Double palmettes on a timber trellis after winter pruning to spurs.
Palmette Wein