For the Birds Flower Mix

by Isabel Vinton

Flowers feed our souls. But they also feed many other creatures: they provide nectar to the bees, and their seed heads yield food for our avian friends. Our For the Birds Flower Mix is not designed to be deadheaded; the seed heads produced after the flowers fade are a buffet for birds of all kinds - an array of sustaining flavors and textures that beckon them from the perimeter of your garden. Their swoops and dives as they harvest are a dance of thanks for your generosity.

"24 Hour Flowers" a book by The Foliage Library

We have wanted to work with Matt Holbein and Emily Brooks, co-founders of The Foliage Library, for ages. Their books are incredible –  they're fun, geometric, interactive works of art that also educate people about environmental issues along the way -- and we wanted this seed pack to do the same.

Talking about their work, they told us, we create interactive books that feature different species of plants and animals in a sort of field-guide fashion, so that our readers can gain a greater appreciation for nature and identify plants they encounter in their everyday lives. We wanted to bring that feel to our seed pack by showing the different kinds of birds that would be attracted to a garden growing these flowers.”

Indeed, all of the flowers and birds are accurately represented and each bird is associated with the seed they love. These are (clockwise from top middle):

For the Birds Flower Mix final sketch.
  1. Black Capped Chickadee, the Shasta Daisy
  2. Mourning Dove, Prairie Coneflower
  3. Northern Cardinal, Blue Flax
  4. Mocking Bird, Sunspot Sunflower
  5. American Goldfinch, Partridge Pea
  6. Bluebird, Phlox
  7. White Throated Sparrow, Black-eyed Susan
  8. House Finch, Gayfeather



Matt and Emily, can you tell us a bit about your artistic medium and process?

Gayfeather is one of the flower seeds in the mix.

We work in a digital mixed media style where Emily creates a drawing in ink, scans it, and Matt adds colors and textures digitally using Adobe Illustrator. As collaborative artistic partners, we both offer advice along the way for the other person, deciding together which details should be added in ink, and what would work better as a digital addition.

What are your favorite elements of the For the Birds artwork?

We want folks to notice the 8 seeds on the tips of the center octagon - these are the seeds that will be produced by the plants in the pack, and will be the main draw to bring birds to your garden. One of our favorite details in the illustration is the feathers on the birds- the variations in growth patterns can be a key indicator to help people identify which birds are coming to their garden to feast on the seeds of these flowers.

Can you tell us a bit about the role geometry plays in this piece, plus how you thought about it in relation to our signature quatrefoil seed pack shape? We wanted to incorporate an interesting shape to reference the geometric nature of our books. We chose an octagon because there are 8 different seed varieties in the For the Birds Flower Mix, and an octagon works symmetrically with the four-lobed shape of the packet. We tilted the octagon to have its points facing the flat sides of the pack so that the birds could be flying in to eat a seed out of the octagon’s corner, while filling in the four lobe extensions of the pack design. This also led us to including 4 additional birds in the final art to fill in the corners: 8 birds for 8 seeds!

How did you create the gorgeous sky background? We include a lot of photo textures in our artwork, and this illustration is no exception. There is a grass texture in the central octagon, and an image of some tiny ferns helps to create the feather texture of the birds.

Matt & Emily, co-founders of The Foliage Library

However, the sky texture is special because it reimagines a piece of nature as something totally new. The sky is a photo of the trunk of a sycamore tree with a blue overlay, so that the darker parts of the bark become sky and the light sections are transformed into clouds.

We love Matt and Emily's reverence of art and nature, and the moment of educational reflection this seed pack gives us, a celebration of the relationships in our natural world. With this mix, may your garden become a beacon of generosity for our feathered friends!

See more of The Foliage Library's work at