The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, July 20, 2021 1:00 am

Gateway to city grows into butterfly hot spot

Pair work hard on green space along Lafayette

TERRI RICHARDSON | The Journal Gazette

I will be the first to admit that I don't have a green thumb.

I do try. I have had some success with various flowers and plants. I guess that's why it stings just a little (OK, maybe a lot) when my husband describes what I do in the yard as “piddling.”

And I will admit that “Oooh, that's pretty!” is not a very sure thing when it comes to choosing things to plant. So, for the last few years, I have instead spent some time researching and growing flowers that are more hardy and do well in our area.

Oh, I still occasionally go the pretty route, but admittedly this way has saved me a lot more money and a lot less damage to my self-esteem.

One of my favorite things to do is open a seed packet of butterfly mix, sprinkle it along a strip of land near my fence then wait to see what pops up. The best part is all the flowers that continue to come up, even years later.

And it has attracted butterflies and bees. What's not to love about that? (Score one for all us piddlers!)

I wouldn't describe Don Orban as a piddler. Most of what he plants in the Lafayette Place butterfly garden is with intention. And his efforts have paid off as the garden has become a mini oasis in a neighborhood green space that sits next to the heavily traveled South Lafayette Street and Pettit Avenue.

The green space is the result of a five-year effort by the Lafayette Place Neighborhood Association, headed up by Westley Falcaro.

The project has been a labor of love for Falcaro, who moved into the neighborhood in 1987 and has been the association president since 2003. Falcaro shares the history of the project, which was started in 2016 and dedicated in 2017.

The green space was once nine vacant lots that now provides a walking path, lighting, trash cans, a pet waste station and of course, the butterfly garden. The property is owned and managed by the neighborhood association.

The garden was actually designed and paid for by the city, Falcaro says. The association was able to secure three grants to help pay for the project.

The city was happy to help with the project as the area was planned to be used as the gateway to the city, Falcaro says. And there's no doubt it is a nice addition to the southeast side for those traveling into the city along U.S. 27.

Over the years, Orban has tweaked the original garden plan to what it is today. A display sign in front of the garden tells visitors about the garden and what they might find in it. There are bee balm, Liatris, coneflowers, orange butterfly weed and Brazilian verbena.

Orban, who says he has been gardening since he was young, is a former master gardener so he uses his talents to fix and maintain the garden. He installed a rock path through the garden. While it adds to the aesthetics, he says it was really put in so he could maintain the garden better.

Falcaro and Orban say residents seem to enjoy the garden as well as the green space. “People walk the path constantly,” Falcaro says.

It's no easy task to keep it maintained. Even with her arm in a sling after a recent surgery, Falcaro walks around the green space picking up trash that has blown into the area from the constant flow of nearby traffic, putting it into a plastic grocery bag.

But Falcaro believes it's important for the well-being of the neighborhood and its residents. It's why the association offers such events as the free concert Saturday at the gazebo on the Lafayette Place Esplanade.

It's the 10th year for the concert, which will be from 7 to 10 p.m.

Lafayette Place was established in 1915 and was among the first professionally designed and developed additions in Fort Wayne. It's nice to see that the residents are still taking pride in the neighborhood and adding to its features more than 100 years after it was created.

After all, as Orban describes it, “It's a great gateway to the city.”

Terri Richardson writes about area residents and happenings that affect their lives in this column that publishes every other week. Email her at or call 461-8304.

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