Deciduous trees and shrubs need a cold place for the winter but need
no light and little water when they have no leaves and are dormant.
Apple, crabapple (malus spp.) are a very
good source of bonsai material.
Seedlings are often easy to find, and young commercial trees can also
used. Edible apples have white flowers, ornamental crabapples have
pink flowers and Siberian crabapple (Malus baccata) have white flowers
and tiny fruit - particularly appropriate because the others have
fruit far too big to be on a bonsai.
Birch -paper or white birch (Betula papyrifera) seedlings are found
near parent trees, in damp areas, or they may be purchased. They have
white bark and oval leaves with pointed tips. Bog birch (Betula
glanulose) is a smaller native, with rounded, dark green leaves, found
near creeks and marshy areas. Branches are flexible and easy to shape.
They need moisture and are pruned in summer.
Elm - Siberian (Ulmus pumila) elms have Y-shaped trunks and small
leaves with toothed edges. Seedlings are easily found near parent
trees or they may be purchased as young plants. They are suitable for
formal upright bonsai.
Maple - Amur maple (Acer ginnala) is the most suitable maple, with
elongated maple- shaped leaves and red stems. They turn a very
attractive dark orange in the fall. They are easily found as seedlings
or purchased as young plants. Prune in summer only. This is a great
alternative to Japanese maple.
Pincherry, Chokecherry - (Prunus spp.) include several native
varieties and are also available commercially. All have attractive
white flower clusters and small chokecherries. Leaves are oval with
pointed tips. Pincherry has dark red bark which is pretty even when
the tree is not in leaf.
Caragana - (caragana spp.) comes in many cultivars, including globe
(C. frutex 'Globosa") and pygmy (C. pygmaea), which are smaller and
less likely to sucker than common caragana (C. arborescens). They have
small, round compound leaves. Fern leaf caragana (C. arborescens 'Lorbergi)
has thin, fern-like leaves. All have small yellow flowers. These are
Cotoneaster - (Cotoneaster spp.) is the common hedge plant in this
area. It is inexpensive to purchase, especially in the spring when it
is available bare-root. It's easy to bonsai, with flexible stems, ease
in pruning and compact growth. Leaves are small, green ovals which
turn dark orange in the fall. There is also a horizontal cotoneaster
(C. horizontalis) which makes an interesting cascade.
Bearberry (Kinnikinnick arctostaphylos uva-ursi) isn't really a shrub
but it makes a great cascade bonsai. It is very low-growing with
shiny, dark green leaves, pale pink flowers and red fruit. It develops
a woody stem, and is native to the prairies and foothills, or
Nanking cherry, Double flowering plum are large garden shrubs commonly
grown on the prairies. Nanking cherry (Prunus tomentosa) has single,
pale pink flowers and edible red cherries, double flowering plum (Prunus
triloba multiplex) has double brighter pink flowers and no fruit.
Seedlings of Nanking cherry are easy to find. Consider these instead
of Japanese cherry.
Potentilla - (Potentilla spp.) are native to the prairies and also
available in many commercial varieties. Leaves are tiny and compound,
and flowers on native ones are yellow; those purchased can also be
pink, white or orange. Old, cow- chewed or deer-trampled specimens
from the foothills can have thick, gnarled trunks that look really
Rose - (rosa spp.) include a large variety of native wild roses,
commercially available shrub roses (particularly smaller varieties)
and miniatures. The main problem is their tendency to develop spider
mite indoors. They would do fine outdoors spring to fall, and possibly
have their pots sunk into the ground outdoors and well mulched over
Saskatoon - (Amelanchier alnifolia) is a large shrubs which is native
to the prairies, with soft, oval green leaves which turn orange in the
fall, white flowers and edible purple berries. Should be easy to find
Spirea (Spirea spp.) - includes several suitable varieties with white
or pink flowers, low and bushy or taller with arching branches. These
develop woody trunks when quite young and can be interesting informal
Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquifolia) is a common vine which
can easily make a cascade bonsai. It has five-part leaves which turn
red in the fall, and is available commercially or can be rooted from
Willow - Wolf willow and coyote willow (Salix spp.) are native to damp
areas and easy to grow and bonsai. The silver leaves are very
attractive. Commercially available Blue Fox willow (bluish-grey
leaves) and Flame willow (orange-red bark) are also suitable. Don't
try a laurel-leaf willow - they grow to 35 feet wide!
Evergreens need a winter cold but above freezing indoors, or, if
native, stored in their pots sunk to above the rim in the ground and
well mulched too survive. They will not survive as houseplants.
Spruce - (Picea spp.) includes many varieties such as the native white
spruce (P. glauca), and commercially available Bird's Nest spruce (P.
abies 'Nidiformis'), Globe spruce (P. pungens 'Globosa') among many
others. There are many plants stunted by nature on mountain hillsides.
Pine (Pinus spp.) - include many native varieties in the foothills and
mountains, and Bristlecone pine (P. aristata) which is the oldest
known living tree in the world.
Juniper (Juniperus spp.) - include common native juniper (J. communis)
and many commercially available low, spreading junipers, which make
good cascade bonsai.
Larch (Larix spp.) is a deciduous conifer which loses its needles in
the fall. It is difficult to transplant from the wild as it has a long
tap root. Larches need moisture year round.