Ireland’s largest independent forestry nursery celebrates 30th birthday

12 Aug , 2019  

Twenty-fifteen is the 30th anniversary of the establishment of None So Hardy (Forestry) Ltd. – Ireland’s largest independent forestry nursery. We dropped into the company’s base at Shillelagh in Wicklow to discuss the history of this outstanding company, as well as the comprehensive range of products and services provided, with sales and transport manager Lar Behan and accounts manager Breda Murphy.

None So Hardy (Forestry) Ltd. is a privately-owned Irish company specialising in the growing and supplying of first-class forestry plants to the Irish forestry market. Its nurseries are based on 530 acres of land situated at Donishall and Ballymurn in County Wexford. Sales, administration and distribution are overseen from the company base in Shillelagh, County Wicklow.

The genesis of the company dates back to 1985 when John and Gillian McCarthy purchased a small twelve-acre nursery in Shillelagh. Their initial intention was to grow around three million trees per annum, but they soon realised they needed to grow a minimum of seven-to-eight million trees to justify putting in place the necessary infrastructure and training of staff to ensure success.

Thus, the original None So Hardy nursery eventually grew to comprise some 280 acres. The subsequent purchase of an additional 250-acre nursery in Ballymurn in December, 1995 means the group is now the largest private nursery in the country, with the capacity to produce 25 million trees per annum.

In 1994, a cold store was erected at the Shillelagh base. In 2002, this was extended to hold eight million plants, ensuring that the limited planting season can be extended by at least four months.

In 2002, irrigation systems were established at both nurseries. Ballymurn is particularly committed to the large-scale production of hardwoods; principally Oak, Beech, Sycamore, Alder, Birch, Mountain Ash, Whitethorn and Hazel. The Donishall base is committed to the growing of conifers including Sitka and Norway Spruce, Lodgepole and Scots Pine, European and Hybrid Larch, and Douglas fir. All plants are grown from high-quality seed and conform to provenance recommendations set out by the Forest Service for grant-aid approval.

Over the 30 years since the company’s inception, things have evolved almost beyond recognition. “The business has changed a lot,” confirms transport manager Lar Behan. “It started out as just a garden centre really and then started to focus more and more on forestry production. And that has grown from 40 acres to more than 500 acres under trees across two sites.

“Commercial forestry is our main interest and different schemes and initiatives have come on board over the years which have opened up a range of new markets to us. Our plants are sold almost exclusively to private land owners who are establishing new forests on their land through forestry schemes.”

None So Hardy also supply excellent quality homestock from native seed for the establishment of native woodlands. As nursery work is labour intensive, both in field and office, it requires a high level of commitment and expertise to provide customers with a top-class product and service. Clients receive a complete and comprehensive service right through to the delivery of plants to their site on the morning of planting.

All plants are labelled with colour-coded labels to advise customers of provenance details, quantities and easy identification of all batches. These labels ensure full traceability of plants from seedbed to planting site, offering clients security in the origin and quality of all plants.

None So Hardy also supply a wide range of landscaping plants to both individuals and professionals.

The company employs a team of up to 80 hardworking and committed people, providing valuable long-term, sustainable employment in rural areas with huge spin-off benefits for local businesses. Founders John and Gillian McCarthy remain directors, alongside their daughter Kate, while the management team comprises Lar Behan, Breda Murphy, Teige Ryan (sales and transport) and John Kavanagh (nursery production). Other employees include supervisors, graders, lorry drivers, office personnel, sprayers etc.

Needless to say, a sizeable fleet of machinery keeps the operation ticking over. None So Hardy operate their own fleet for deliveries (four twelve-tonne trucks plus one van for smaller jobs) in addition to twenty two tractors – all Massey Ferguson – and assorted lifting machines, sowers, transplanting machines, sprayers, ploughs and cultivators. The equipment is updated regularly to keep the fleet fresh and a preventative maintenance programme ensures that all units remain in prime working order at all times.

While many businesses took a massive hit during the economic downturn, this wasn’t the case for None So Hardy (Forestry): “The economic downturn helped to stabilise the industry as it made forestry a more viable option for landowners/farmers”, accounts manager Breda Murphy reveals.

As Ireland’s largest independent forestry nursery, None So Hardy supplies its full range of conifers, broadleaves, hedging and feathered whips to customers all over Ireland. Up to 95% of plants produced are sold on the domestic market.

Looking to the future, Lar sees great potential for further growth (pun intended): “In the past six or seven years we have been supplying Improved Sitka Spruce, which is a better product and achieves better results – a higher-quality crop with better-quality timber. That has been an important development and we will continue to endeavour to provide our customers with the best available material.”

Improved Sitka Spruce trees are grown from seed collected from trees which have been selected because of the desirable characteristics of their lineage such as fast growth rates, timber density, straightness, stiffness and low incidence of knots.

“We produce between fifteen and twenty million plants per year and it’s a very labour-intensive business because everything is done by hand,” Lar concludes. “The plants are lifted, counted and sorted by hand and that personal touch is evident through everything we do.”

None So Hardy (Forestry) Ltd.,



County Wicklow.

Telephone: 053 94 29105

Email: [email protected]

Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 7 No 2, April/May 2019