Rustic or country gardens are set apart from other garden designs by their use of well-worn, antique-looking props, and nothing fits better in that design than a whiskey barrel planter. Whiskey barrels are commercially available in both full and half sizes and their uses are only limited by your imagination. When designing any container garden--including a whiskey barrel--consider your light requirements based on where you plan on using it, and plant accordingly. Ensure that any plastic liners, if applicable, have drainage for soil-based gardens and are water-tight for water gardens.
Annuals are the most popular container flowers because of their bright show of blooms that usually last through the entire growing season. Tucked among perennial gardens, annuals grown in containers are easily swapped out if a plant isn't growing well enough. Whiskey barrels are heavy and used as a permanent garden fixture or on patios, but also look great placed at the base of a flowering bush or among a perennial border garden for a rustic accent.
Consider basic container garden design when growing annuals in your whiskey barrel--choose a spike or tall plant, filler plants and trailing or vining types to cascade over the end. Some good choices include dusty miller, foliage spikes, pansies, petunias, nasturtium, lobelia, begonia, marigold, zinnia, impatiens and just about any other annual that will fit your sunlight needs for your area.
Take special care in colder climates for perennials growing in containers unless you are using them as a one-season plant. Most perennials need extra room for root growth and expansion and the soil in containers often gets too cold for the plant to survive. If you wish to grow perennials that come back year after year, visit your local cooperative extension office or full-service garden center for some ideas on plants that are hardy enough for your particular growing zone.
Some perennials that are proven hardy enough for continued blooming when grown in containers in most climates include shasta daisy, chrysanthemum, yarrow, sedum, candytuft, hosta, columbine, veronica and lupine.
A whiskey barrel lined with a water-tight lining makes the perfect small water garden for a patio or a rustic touch to a garden. Commercial kits with pumps are available online and in garden centers or a pump can be added to an existing barrel.
Water lilies, papyrus and elephant ears are popular plants for small water gardens. Do not crowd water gardens and always have a running water source such as a fountain or a water pump moving the water to keep out algae growth and mosquito larvae, and allow for oxygen to your plants.