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Choosing the species of tree to grow is the first, and possibly most difficult, task. Pines and maples are perhaps the most recognizable bonsai. These trees are classic beauties and well suited for miniaturization. Flowering and fruiting trees are popular as well, especially the quince and pomegranate.

Bonsai trees are not necessarily always trees. Many shrubs can be grown and manipulated into bonsai forms that belie their natural state. Wisteria vines and azaleas can be shaped into thick tree trunks that they would never produce normally.

The tree can be grown from seed or propagated through a cutting. The easiest way to begin is to select a sapling from your favorite nursery.

Bonsai Styles: Bonsai are often classified into five basic styles — formal upright, informal upright, slanting, cascade, and semi-cascade — based on the overall shape and how much the trunk slants. You’ll also find dozens of additional styles such as literati, windswept, and weeping branch, which you can mix and modify as you see fit.

A good introduction can be found at on Wikipedia or in Bonsai for Beginners by Craig Coussins (Sterling Publishing).