Courtois or Short-Spur Method (1884/5)



Monsieur Jules Courtois, “an amateur from Chartres” (Champagnat); “Juge à Chartres” and “vice-président de la Société d’horticulture d’Eure-et-Loir” (source).


Main aim is to produce dards on a wood shoot in the most advantageous position, namely quite close to the main branch, which will then crown and develop into fruit buds in subsequent seasons.

“Courtois observed that when he pruned a wood shoot of medium vigour above the third bud, the basal bud on the spur thus made produced a dard, the terminal bud produced a wood shoot, whilst the middle bud could develop into either a dard, or into a wood shoot according to the specific qualities of the tree.” (Champagnat, The Pruning of Fruit Trees 1954, p.100)

Practised only during the dormant season, no summer pruning.


Source: Paul Champagnat, The Pruning of Fruit Trees, 1954 edtn, pp.100- 111

Year One – in winter, prune all wood shoots to 3 buds.
Following year’s growth results in one of:
a) Two dards + one wood shoot.
b) One dard + two wood shoots.
c) Three dards.

Year Two – in winter, according to growth above:
a) Cut wood shoot back to lowest bud, leaving 2 dards + 1 wood bud.
b) Cut out strongest wood shoot, cut second to 2 buds, leaving 1 dard + 2 wood buds.
c) Leave three dards intact.
Following year’s growth results in:
a) Wood bud produces shoot, dards swell, may crown (develop fruit buds).
b) One bud produces leafy shoot, one produces dard, dard swells but rarely crowns.
c) Three dards likely to crown.

Year Three – in winter, according to growth above:
a) If two dards have not crowned, cut back shoot to one bud; if two dards have crowned, treat as per year four, a).
b) First year dard unlikely to have crowned, second year dard usually less developed; because 2 dards, cut back shoot to one bud as per a).
c) Terminal dard usually suppressed, leaving two nearest main branch. (Q: manually suppressed, or naturally suppressed..?)
Following year’s growth results in:
a) Two dards crown if not happened already; wood bud develops a shoot.
b) If wood bud developed strong shoot, dard likely not to crown; wood bud develops a shoot as per a).
c) Two dards usually crowned.

Year Four – in winter, according to growth above:
a) Cut out any unwanted ‘sap-drawers’ (shoots with terminal fruit bud), leaving only fruiting spurs as per c) above.
b) If only one fruit bud, cut back to that if already too many fruit buds on the tree; if not, cut back to second dard; cut back wood shoot to basal bud.
c) Nothing to cut; knob (bourse shoot) is source of future fruit buds, do not prune.

Years Five Onwards – likely growth patterns based on growth above:
a) Fruiting takes place.
b) Fruiting takes place; remaining dard or dards are crowned.
c) Knob (bourse shoot) develops in one of 4 ways:
i) produces blossom bud.
ii) produced dards which crown in summer.
iii) produces brindille, usually terminated by dard or fruit bud.
iv) occasionally produces wood shoot with only wood buds; if so treat as ordinary wood shoot; after pruning seldom produces another wood shoot.
Four cases may combine on a single knob, so may develop one dard + one fruit bud; one dard + one brindille (frequent); one dard + one wood shoot; only wood shoot should be pruned.

Treatment of Brindilles

“the brindille is justly reputed to be very easy to bring into fruit, and the smaller the diameter of the base of the brindille the more easily it comes into fruiting” (Champagnat, 1954 p. 105).

Depending on position (bud one, two or three) and length of brindille:

a) If near the base, with wood shoots or dards above, cut back to the brindille.
b) If on the middle bud with dard below and wood shoot above, prune the wood shoot, retain the brindille and dard. Brindille can be arched (tied back to stem or its own base) to promote fruit bud development or if not flexible, pruned back to four or five buds.
c) If on the spur apex with two dards below; if crowned by fruit bud retain to benefit from fruit, but suppress (remove) all but one or two buds at base of brindille; if not crowned, prune back to 3 buds, retaining dards below.

Treatment of Gourmands

Remove completely if in a poor position, or cut back to the collar; “pruned to the wrinkles or the shield”, (Champagnat, 1954 p. 108) to promote latent stipulary buds to grow into small shoots, brindilles or dards. Do not prune back to effective wood buds, as this willr esult in three or four new gourmands.

Accessory Practices – Pinching

Removing the apical growth from young stems during the growing season (a form of summer pruning) in order to encourage dormant buds and dards to develop into fruiting buds, repeated several times as necessary, and “in all cases … done beyond the point at which it is calculated that pruning will take place in the winter” (Champagnat, 1954 p. 111).

The main idea being to cause “a temporary check to growth … during this check the axillary buds at the base of the shoot should become clearly visible and start to swell”; “all maiden lateral shoots can be pinched to avoid unnecessary extension growth. The only shoot that must not be pinched is the extension shoot that is in course of formation as a leader.” (Champagnat, 1954 p. 110)

Glossary Links


Could be interesting to run a comparison with the “Modified Lorette” System…