The Velvet Texture of White Oak Leaves in Spring

Several years ago, my neighbor bought an old whiskey barrel. She had her husband cut it in half. Afterward, she tipped half of the barrel over on its side and designed a small display garden around it. She filled the barrel with annuals. Then she planted more annuals at the edge of the barrel. She created a river effect by planting more annuals in a meandering trail throughout the garden. This made the barrel look like it had a waterfall of flowers flowing out of it. She arranged rocks all around the barrel to give it a river look. I admired her little flower waterfall each season for years. Finally, I decided to make a whiskey barrel garden of my own. I spoke to my neighbor about where to find whiskey barrels for the garden. She had a plethora of knowledge about whiskey barrels. Goodness, I learned quite a lot about whiskey barrels. So, I thought it might be nice to share the interesting facts I learned about whiskey barrels with my fellow gardeners. For instance did you know that whiskey barrels are made of white oak? And that white oak lumber is used in making more than just whiskey barrels. Oak is my favorite wood. I have several pieces of antique furniture made of beautiful oak. Often I go to the antique stores and roam around admiring all the nice old furniture. For me, furniture is not real furniture, unless it is antique.


I like oak so well
that I put down oak flooring
throughout my house this past summer.

It is interesting to see the unique projects people have made from whiskey barrels. I hope this article inspires you to try one of the many projects that can be made from whiskey barrels. I have included one link with numerous photographs. It is truly amazing to me how creative people are. I enjoy seeing garden projects, as well as projects for the indoors, and I like to share the information I find.

I have yet to create my whiskey barrel garden, other than in my mind. I expect to do so in the spring of 2009. I can only hope it turns out as lovely as my neighbor's barrel garden.

I will begin with some basic information on the white oak tree because it is always good to know your trees.


Young White Oak Tree

The Majestic White Oak

The White Oak Tree
A mature white oak tree, Quercus alba, is a beautiful sight with its lower branches stretching out parallel to the ground. I have seen them in landscapes and wooded areas. It is a sight not forgotten by lovers of trees. And although, the white oak does not grow massively tall, a typical white oak will top out at 80 to100 feet tall. I learned that the tallest recorded white oak reached a magnificent 144 feet tall. Some white oaks boast an impressive trunk diameter of three to four feet when fully grown. The white oak is famous for its growth habit of spreading almost as wide as it is tall. A mature white oak is a striking tree that can live to be 500 or even 600 years old. During its lifespan the white oak will provide food in the form of acorns for squirrels, deer and even chipmunks.

Contrary to its name, the white oak's bark is not white. It is ash gray, as you can see in the photos above. Take a look at the old oak on the right. Its bark has a fine patina of deep black, just as a beautiful piece of antique furniture has.

Suggested Annuals for a Barrel Garden

Annual phlox Phlox drummondii
Cosmos Cosmos bipinnatus
Impatiens Impatiens walleriana
Moss rose Portulaca grandiflora
Nasturtium Tropaeloum majus
Petunia Petunia x hybrida
Spider flower Cleome hassleriana
Sweet alyssum Lobularia maritima
Wax begonia Begonia semperflorens

You can fill your barrel with a flower fall of annuals, make a real waterfall with it or use it as the center of a rock garden. The choice is yours. I am going to fill my barrel with moss rose, petunias and a trailing vine. Of course, as a gardener, I may change my mind. We do that occasionally. Still, it is exciting to finally be on the verge of getting that barrel garden I have longed for! I must do an article on the actual making of it so I can share the joy with my fellow gardeners.


Photo by kevinrosseel

I have added some information about whiskey barrels, because I found it particularly interesting, and I wanted to share it with my fellow gardeners. I hope you enjoy reading what I've learned.

Barrel History
The use of barrels as a means of storing and transporting goods goes way back in history. In fact, barrels were used in ancient times to carry oil and wine. Some of the dry goods which have been transported in barrels are nails, gunpowder, sugar, flour.

Making a White Oak Whiskey Barrel
Basically a barrel is made by using flames and water to shape staves into a bulging cylinder and fashioning hoops around this to keep the staves in place. The ends are flat circles. They are called a head. There is at least one hole on the belly of the barrel for the bung.

Image Image

Photo by earl53 at

Photo by hyperlux at

White Oak Whiskey Barrel Uses
Make a half barrel planter from your whiskey barrel. Leave it upright or turn it on its side and let the flowers pour out of the barrel like a beautiful blooming river. A half barrel can also be made into a water garden. White oak whiskey barrels make wonderful rain barrels. Several half barrels cascaded together create a beautiful cascading waterfall for the garden.

Other uses people have made of white oak whiskey barrels include barrel chests, wine racks, shelves and whiskey barrel chairs. I have also seen unique garden carts and sink bases made from whole barrels. The barrels can also be used as the base for tables.

White oak whiskey barrels have been made into unique and beautiful works of art by painting the ends or breaking them apart and painting the staves. I want to paint some to hang on my privacy fence. That will add a nice touch to my courtyard garden, I think.

This is only a small list of uses for white oak whiskey barrels. I hope you can invent many more. And please, share your ideas with your fellow gardeners.

Interesting Barrel Facts
• A barrel maker is known as a cooper.
• The bulge in the middle of the barrel makes it easier to maneuver the barrel while it is being rolled on its side.
• In the eighteenth century over one-third of all goods were transported in barrels.

Container Gardens at Dave's

Dave's Garden Community for all your garden information
Kentucky Barrels LLC Whiskey Barrel Uses

Photo Credits
Public domain photographs
• Wikimedia Commons

The photograph of the oak floor is from my collection

Pleasant gardening