wrestlervic saidThese are like a poor man's bonsai (that's me!) with little cost risk. Would love to own one of those miniature maples but scared to death it will die. If I'm not mistaken, most bonsai like full sun and cool nights (like real outdoor trees). Yes?
I think the big idea of bonsai is to make your own as you are doing, to tend it over the course of your life and to enjoy it as it matures.
If you want an instantly mature-looking bonsai-esque plant or a starter-bonsai, just head to homodepot or your nearest nursery and get a potted juniper plant. Find a real knarly one with lots of angling branches to it. Then clip it into the form of a bonsai. You can be creative and instead of forcing certain limbs to head in specific directions by wrapping in wire, if you start with a mature plant, by clipping the appropriate branches you'll show off the more twisty looking angles. The cuts will scar over with time.
As a general rule, you'll want to cut branches that head down, leaving branches that grow up or at new angles to any side. Then see what you've got left, then further clip from there to reduce the "crown" of the "tree".
I never got into them myself, though I've done some bonsai-esque type clipping of garden plants which seemed to have the form for it, only on a larger, non bonsai, yet non full sized scale.
When I lived in south Florida I was often a visitor to the bonsai collection at the Morikami where I studied their forms. Here's the website:http://www.morikami.org/gardens/bonsai-collection/
PS, Just looked up what's available online. Totally go by what I wrote above.
Here's a juniper some guy's trying to sell for $70.http://www.bonsaiboy.com/catalog/product32.html
You could do the same thing for about $4.98 for the plant and $12.50 for the vase, and 20 minutes of pruning. S&H not included.