There are many ways to obtain bonsai. At the beginning it is best to work with the more common plants. Most are obtainable at local nurseries. Plants that are native the area where you live often make fine subjects for bonsai. But make sure these plants meet the bonsai requirements of size, leaf, trunk, and scale.
Some old favorites grown as bonsai because of their classical good looks are: Sargent juniper (Juniperus chinensis sargentii); Japanese black pine (Pinus thunbergii); wisteria (Wisteria floribunda, Wisteria sinensis); flowering cherries (Prunus subhirtella, Prunus yedoensis); and graybark elm (zelkova serrata).
Among the plants recommended for the beginner are: Firethorn (Pyracantha coccinea or Pyracantha fortuneana) which is an evergreen with small leaves; Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster dammeri) which characteristics similar to those of firethorn; the Dwarf pomegranate (Punica granatum nana) which is deciduous, and has tiny green leaves; and Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum or Juniperus virginiana) which is a hardy evergreen with heavy foliage that takes well to pruning.
In addition to nursery stock, plants for bonsai can be collected from the wild or propogated from plants in your garden. (See discussion of propagation.)
Growers can now purchase mature bonsai created in this country; these plants have recently become available at selected nurseries. Mature bonsai plants also can be imported from Japan, but only deciduous varieties ship well.