Hi all! I hope to get some insight about some troublesome bonsais that we have had. My daughter has fallen in love with the ideas of bonsais. For Christmas last year, my parents got my daughter (almost 12 at the time) a juniper bonsai from Lowe's and gave it to her. She took exquisite care of it (that being watering it when the soil felt dry, not overwatering). Unfortunately, it dried up as if it had never gotten any water. We decided to try again, again with a Juniper, again from my parents. It seemed as if we were doing better with this one, spring came, we had some new growth, she trimmed a couple of small branches (she was very cautious about this, and really just snipped a couple of ends). Again, however, needles have turned brown, like a dry Christmas tree and it just looks dead now. It looks like it hasn't gotten any water, but I have seen and supervised her watering. It isn't sitting near any vents that would dry it out, and seems to get a fair amount of indirect sunlight.
So, with that background, she just received a Colorado Blue Spruce sapling from the Arbor Day Foundation. We were thinking that this might be a great opportunity for her to make it a bonsai. It is about 8 inches tall right now. So, I'm looking for some insight (if there is any) on what happened to our previous bonsais, and any advice on how to be successful with this one! The planting instructions say to plant it in a gallon pot for a year before transplanting outside (of course, this is if we were to make it just an outside tree), but I have also read that we should have it in the ground outside for the trunk to thicken.
Any advice is welcome!