Creekside Gardens on Village Lane off Rt. 29 south of Tunkhannock is open Tuesday through Sunday. Check out their Facebook page for specific times and special activities. In June, Sherry and Kevin Kukuchka were anxious to get planting underway in the butterfly house behind them so they can start the process of raising butterflies for scheduled releases from the summer into the fall.
Story by Rick Hiduk
(Originally published in the North Branch Arts Paper)
When Kevin and Sherry Kukuchka, owners of Creekside Gardens in Tunkhannock, decided about 10 years ago to ease their way out of landscape installation and growing nursery stock to concentrate on the retail end of the business, they didn’t know that their growing garden center along Route 29 would become a travel destination and event venue. But they had a sense that they were headed in that direction.
“We feel like we always need to keep changing things,” Kevin remarked.
“We love to hear people who have come back noticing that it’s different,” Sherry added.
The large gift shop at the middle of the property was constructed in 2011, and some of the base elements, including water features that initially served as models for the landscaping business, now provide backdrops from which the creative minds of the Kukuchkas and their employees can go in new directions every season. Last fall, when crowds were still limited due to the pandemic, Creekside Gardens invited guests to take a relaxing stroll among bigger-than-life mosaics of pumpkins and gourds.
“We’ve always put so much energy into making things look nice. Now it justifies all that work,” Sherry said of the evolving displays, which draw area photographers taking graduation and engagement photos. “It’s been fun having them come in with people and showing them around.”
Working through the pandemic resulted in some new ideas that the Kukuchkas intend to maintain. Their annual butterfly release from a special, tented structure they are currently planting was spread out over various dates to allow for safe distancing. Ultimately, more people were able to participate, so the staggered schedule will return with a release tentatively planned in July and August and another in September to coincide with the natural migration of butterflies to warmer climates.
When it came time last year to open the Farmer’s Market, which is managed by local growers Bill and Amanda Banta, the Kukuchkas got permission from Eaton Township and their neighbors to use Village Lane for the line-up of up to 17 vendors. The Farmers Market returned on June 19 and will continue on Saturdays, from 10 am to 2 pm, rain or shine, through October.
The very popular Food Truck Fridays, which pair food with live music, will be back on July 9, with future dates tentatively set for Aug. 13 and Sept. 10. Interested readers can follow Creekside Gardens on Facebook or at www.CreeksideGardens.com for regular updates on events and activities, which include terrarium and container gardening workshops in the spring and pumpkin glamming in the fall. The displays and activities are just as popular with adults as they are with children.
“To some degree, you always attract what you give out,” Sherry suggested. “We get a lot of creative people coming through, looking for new ideas, and we’re happy to help them.”
The Kukuchkas are hands-on with almost every element of their business and joke that their employees don’t have titles. “We’re all family,” said Kevin. “We all do the same things, from setting up displays to cleaning the bathrooms.”
But they do rely on other people who bring their expertise and varying talents to Creekside Gardens. Over the past decade, they’ve built a partnership with Folk’s Butterfly Farm of Nescopeck, who provide them with live butterflies and chrysalises of Monarchs, Swallowtails, Bukeyes, Commas and more.
“They are all native butterflies that you can attract to your gardens. It’s really fun to watch that transformation,” Sherry related. “We are proud to help others provide more habitat. It’s very exciting.”
Kevin added that much of the milkweed that is sold at Creekside Gardens has butterfly eggs in it.
The Bantas, who operate Rowlands Pennsylvania Produce in Exeter Township, manage the Farmer’s Market, which brings people to the garden center and vice versa.
“It goes both ways,” said Sherry.
“People will come in on Saturday to buy plants and find the farmers market, or they come for the produce and find their way into the retail center,” Kevin concurred.
“You see a lot of the same people every week, and that’s what a real market should be,” Sherry stated. “It used to be a way of life. You buy what looks good at the market and then build your meal around it.”
They have been working with event planner Ashlee Martinelli of Every Little Thing, LLC, to bring small events like micro-weddings (or elopements) to Creekside Gardens and ensure that guests enjoy a truly unique experience. “She’s such a great detail person,” Sherry said of Ashlee. “People appreciate natural, local things, and she promotes the idea that we are no longer just a retail place. It all ties together.”
Summer hours for Creekside Gardens are 10 am to 5 pm Tuesday to Saturday, and 10 to 4 on Sunday. Creekside Gardens is closed on Mondays.
Garden center employee Mikayla Simanksi stands next to a stream that disappears into the floor of the gift shop, one of Creekside’s many charming water features.
Tunkhannock artist Dorian Mosluk is one the Creekside employees on whom the Kukuchkas can depend to help them with dazzling displays of plants and other garden ephemera for sale.
Dakota Wilson provided and old-fashioned thrill to many Farmers Market patrons last summer. His horse and wagon rides into Eatonville will resume in July on alternate weekends, weather permitting.