1. Bonsai literally translates to tree in a pot.
2. There are 4000 year old paintings in Egypt showing bonsai. 2000 years ago bonsai shows up in Chinese paintings, 1400 years ago it shows up in Japanese art. 100 years ago bonsai makes a small appearance in London, then after WWII it shows up in the US.
3. In China bonsai often depict entire scenes, where as in Japanese bonsai it is typically one plant.
4. Shallow pots are typically used both for appearance, so you can see some of the roots and because it is easier to maintain soil moisture evenly.
5. There are many, many styles of bonsai including: Chokkan ( straight trunk tree); Fukinagashi ( wind swept); Netsurianai ( roots grow together); Ishkizuki ( with rocks ); Kengai ( cascade); Yoseue ( group planting ); Bunkingi ( stressed ).
6. Some good choices to try to use for bonsai include: figs, crapes, junipers, azaleas. Pines are more difficult, but if you want a pine find a short needled pine. Also consider trying to start with a cutting from a local tree or dig up a sapling.
7. Bonsais must be pruned and shaped frequently. Find some short edged tools to make it easier to get in tight spaces with out damaging other branches.
8. Soil should be well drained and course. Your bonsai soil should get dry enough to need watering daily.
9. Spidermites can be a problem, Merit is the recommended systemic insecticide.