The Propagation of Australia's Most Popular Pear
In the late-1890s Charles Packham (1842-1909) found notoriety after developing a new pear variety. Using this plain pruning knife, Packham successfully created the new pear by grafting together a Bell and Williams Pear – it was aptly called Packhams Triumph. The second half of the nineteenth century was a time of growing interest and experimentation in Australian horticulture. Packham was influenced by the innovative mood of this era. The same pear type still satisfies today’s palette and the challenges of commercial horticulture.
Packham seemed destined to work the land. He was born at Toongabbie in 1842, when this part of Sydney was extensively farmed to supply food for the colony’s expanding population. But in 1848, to realise other opportunities, Charles’ free-settler parents moved their family of eight children to Larras Lake, near Molong in the Central West of NSW. There Charles’ father, who previously worked as a milkman at Toongabbie, cultivated wheat. The second eldest son, Charles labored alongside his father on the farm learning as he went.
In 1863 Packham married and just over a decade later, together with his wife Mary, he occupied his own parcel of land on which he grazed sheep, planted an orchard, and kept bees to pollinate his fruit trees. By the late 1870s Packham was experimenting with growing pears and in 1889 won a prize for his pears at the Sydney Royal Show. Seven years later he sent samples of his grafted pears to the newly established NSW Agricultural Department. W J Allen, the Department’s fruit expert, enthusiastically declared that his fruit was ‘…without exception the best pear I have ever seen…it is a triumph in pear culture’.
Packham’s pears grew well in the cold climate and fertile soils of the Central West – the climate produced good, store-hardy, fruit yields. The praise of Packham’s pears saw Charles inundated with requests for propagated trees, which were sent to government experiment farms and nurseries.
Today Packhams Triumph is the most popular export pear in Australia.