Post-Stream Discussion : Slab Planting

Hey everyone!

Wanted to get this discussion going since the idea of a post-stream discussion has been something on the Mirai Live team’s mind for awhile.

Could be really interesting to see what we all learned, liked, disliked, were challenged by, want to know more about, etc. about each week’s stream.

In theory, this could become a regular post that we contribute all things stream related to outside of what we already place in the Archive and Social Media. With the added benefit of having all of you contribute too!

This week (as of barely a couple hours ago) we focused on a slab planting of a beautiful collected Colorado Blue Spruce.

In this stream we featured the amazing work of Jan Culek (the artist that made the slab) and touched on a diverse range of technique and concept such as: slab planting planning, natural vs. traditional form, tie down strategies, seasonal timing, moss and akadama “Wall building”, etc.

I am including a before and after image of this compisition for everyone to critique, comment on, or appreciate.

Let’s see what happens, thanks in advance!


Another great stream. :+1:t2:Those concrete mixing totes get brittle for sure. In the end this turned out more interesting than I expected. Thanks for doing what you all do at Mirai… sharing bonsai knowledge!!:evergreen_tree:


I was on the fence when Ryan first mentioned to bring in a second tree. And when it was sitting to the left while he worked the larger tree, didnt care for it. As soon as he moved it over to the right side though, it was clear the large tree needed a friend. Thanks


WOW. Hey Ryan, can you put that deadwood back on the daughter/son tree? ha ha
I learn more in the two hours than years of classes and workshops. Thank you for what the whole teams does.

I thought it was a very interesting and informative presentation. As usual, the attention to details was a high point, especially the formation of the “walls” using sphagnum and akadama and the preparation of the slab and tree for attaching to the slab (drilling, screws, wire etc).

I was somewhat uncertain about adding the second tree and thought it might look better on the left side, but I’m getting used to it. The biggest issue I have with the composition is what I consider to be the somewhat chaotic appearance of the canopy of the main tree. I find the highly variable directions of the mostly dead pieces to be confusing and distracting. I mentioned this during the stream and several people commented about that being how these spruces grow in their native environment. That may be so, but to me it doesn’t translate very well into this size. I say that relying, of course, only on a 2d photo…and am prepared to accept that it may look better in person. Or it may just be a matter of taste.

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Once again Ryan has DEMONSTRATED why he is where he is. The skill sets he possess are repeated over and over and the really great thing is that he shares with us!
The kind of knowledge we are now privy to couldn’t be gotten from any Japaneses ( or even some European ) masters without years of lessons even if they were inclined to provide ( how many lessons over how many years training? ). People are always grousing about the expensive prices but are short memoried about what they have been given freely.
Just my two cents, sorry to be so long winded.


Ryan probably had this planned out a bit as the direction he wanted to go depending on how the root structure turned out on the larger tree and given the large amout of void area on the right side. Working with what the tree gave him and having room on the slab for the second tree adding to the composition, I personally belive seeing the tree in person is always better than the semi 2 demtional view from the cameras and the studio lights.

Maybe @Ricardo_Nagaoka could add a small 360deg video of the final work or @Arthur_Hitchcock could post more pictures from the other sides or better lighting.

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Ryan has hit a Grand Slam on this Design. It was my first time watching live and when Ryan brought the little tree out I too thought it was the thing to do . I just didn’t like the Right side maybe I just got lucky thought about it. Love to see the third tree on the left side. Still a very AWESOME design. Thanks Ryan I learning more each day watching MIRAI Live. Thank and GOD SPEED

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I totally love the final result and I am eager to experiment with the use of sphangnum moss for the wall. However, Ryan mentioned that unless there are problems or design changes, he does not plan to ever repot the trees. The trees still contain field soil and that means never fully transitioning to 100% modern substrate. Somehow it seems to fly against all that we hear, even at Mirai. I can imagine that at some point all the akadama in there will have disintegrated and the root mass be so thick that it will affect negatively the balance of H2O and O2. Any thoughts? I will try to ask this on the next Q&A but perhaps others here in the forum have some input to share.


I thought this was one of the best Live Streams I have seen. Actually they are all so very good, I am really grateful to have access to all this valuable information. Thank you Ryan and your awesome team for bringing all this to our living rooms. One thing about the Slab Planting, I still dont quite understand why and how wire was used to secure the “wall” and why only used where it was. Anyone have any thoughts on that???


Regarding never repotting this tree, I assume that Ryan will at some point go back and excavate the shin area to remove more of the field soil and backfill with akadama. All this can be done without removing the tree from the slab and without disturbing the roots around the perimeter.

I would think that this is a bit cumbersome and require adjusting the tie downs, in which case you might as well remove it and put it back - seems more work than just removing the trees - the only issue is with the intertwined manner in which the roots of the two trees will be, if it becomes a single solid mass great but otherwise moving them around or trying to separate the two trees may cause a lot of damage.

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I believe the design can be enhanced with a third tree to the left. I took the liberty to photo edit one of the streams images. It was mentioned on the stream that a third tree could have been an option, thoughts ?


I think a third tree will add an element of symmetry that will detract from the overall minimalist feel of a forest. I wouldn’t put it, at least for sure not a tree of similar size to the small one on the right.


I agree with Rafi. The third tree makes an isosceles triangle in my opinion. The feeling of natural forest is lost and human contrivance is the feeling I come away with. Only a newbie opinion! Asymmetry works for me.

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I understood that the angle of the wall was so acute that some support was needed to stabilize the one side for watering and movement of the slab. Maybe I just thought that up on my own, but it makes sense to me.

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I think the composition is complete as is, with one exception. On the lower right of the large tree is a deadwood limb that I think blocks out the visual strength of the lower left live first branch of the smaller tree. I wonder if there would be any way to put a towel over the deadwood to see the effect? There is still plenty of deadwood on the left of the larger tree to tell a story of wind effect over time. What do you think? Is it worth a lookeesee?

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I think @ryan said there was a root growing down where I put the green arrow so he could not cut it off. Maybe past that though to the right of the red line.
I’m waiting to go back and watch it again to clarify.


Hey guys!

The edited stream is up for your re-viewing pleasure:

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This was that slab planting that Troy mentioned was his favorite during the stream - the Subalpine fir on itoigawa I believe. Some more slab/rock inspo!