Every year, I look forward to the Yakima Area Arboretum Garden Tour. With six exemplary gardens to visit each year, most participants in the tour probably think, “I can use lots of these ideas in my own garden!”

Over the years, I have never visited a single garden that I didn’t think measured up to the high standards set by the previous year’s garden tour. And this year was no exception. But for me there was one garden this year that stood out above all the gardens that I have toured over the years. Of course, you may have another garden that you thought was really exceptional.

I knew before I visited Kim Brewer and Rick Main’s garden that I would be in for something special — after all, this is their third garden, each in a different location, that has been on the tour. Their garden and home, located near the Yakima Training Center, is far different than their previous two gardens.

Unlike their garden in their last location, which Brewer described as being “Seattle style,” this one fits very well into the niche of the Mediterranean garden style in its sagebrush and rabbitbrush slope.

They were inspired by a five-week trip to Greece six years ago. Looking forward to their eventual retirements, they wanted to develop a landscape with low maintenance and with a one-story home where they could live well into retirement.

Main is a longtime elementary teacher in Selah and Brewer is an artist in addition to owning and operating his own gallery and salon in Selah.

Mediterranean gardens are spread out along the Mediterranean Basin.

While they differ somewhat from area to area and country to country, they share these commonalities: The soil tends to be gravelly to rocky and they all have similar climates with dry, warm summers and cool, rainy winters. (To a large degree they depend on the rain that falls during the winter to carry their gardens through the summer’s gardening season.)

The architecture of the homes is similar. Most are stucco, and if painted at all, they are usually painted in tans, browns or terra cotta earth tones. Roofs are usually covered with terra cotta or red clay tiles. Plants, as might be expected, are also often similar. The dominant foliage color is grayish-green.

The building site Main and Brewer chose for their new home and Mediterranean gardens is on a fairly steep hillside that slopes to the west and has panoramic views of Mount Adams and Mount Rainier and other Cascade Mountains.

When house plans were chosen, modifications were made to suit the site and the Mediterranean style they desired. After earth-moving equipment had leveled the building site, the remaining hillside rose up behind the house on the east.

A sandstone bluff drops off toward the valley floor to the west. Their stucco home is painted a pleasing earth tone and topped with red tiles.

Main and Brewer did their own landscaping from the get-go, and they do all the work in their garden without any hired help. Irrigation is mostly by drip irrigation. Because they have used plants that are suitable to the site and soil, not a lot of work is necessary. This all adds up to a low-maintenance, Mediterranean style landscape.

It was only after I was traveling to the next garden on the tour that it dawned on me that one thing seemed to be missing: There was no grass turf to require mowing, fertilizing and watering — and that was their intention. A lawn is definitely not low maintenance. Mediterranean gardens surrounding the Mediterranean Sea rarely have grass turf.

As Main said, “If you are out in the middle of the sagebrush, why would you plant grass?” and he added, “The day we sold our lawnmower was one of the happiest days of my life.”

Not that they lack grass — they have a multitude of different kinds of ornamental grasses in their landscape. Where turf grass might have been planted, small gravel covers the ground instead. The gentle crunching sound underfoot adds an ambiance that is impossible with a turf grass lawn.

Though they have a wide variety of trees — some planted in large planters — they lack one the major icons found in Mediterranean gardens of the Old World: the tall, narrow Italian cyprus. It wouldn’t likely survive on their site. But they do have several other tall columnar trees, including weeping sequoia (sometimes called a Dr. Seuss tree because of its unique sagging shape) and columnar oak. Other trees in the landscape include Siberian pea, European hornbeam, contorted locust and our native Douglas maple, which for some reason is seldom used in our Valley.

Among the numerous native shrubs are yellow currant, mock orange, rabbitbrush, sumac and tall sagebrush. However, sagebrush has been slow to take hold. Other shrubs include buckbrush, Apache plume and red yucca. I was surprised to see red yucca growing in their landscape. It’s not a true yucca, although it has yuccalike foliage. I had been under the impression that this red-flowering beauty native to the Texas/Mexico border couldn’t be grown in our area. It probably thrives because of its warm winter microclimate on the south side of the house.

Several species of lavender, emblematic of Mediterranean gardens, including Hidcote and Munstead, grow in their gardens as well as various other herbs. “Hot Lips” salvia and tangerine sage are among the numerous perennials that add color to the gardens.

Gravel paths meander up the back hillside, where several kinds of vegetables, culinary herbs and small fruits — including table grapes, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and tayberries — add not only beauty but also fresh food for the table.

Near the top of the slope there are several kinds of spring wildflowers, including spreading phlox. Also scattered about the steep hillside are the mock orange, native sumac, yellow currant and other natives. Topping the slope and along the south side of the property are Arctic willows, which may seem out of place in a Mediterranean landscape, until you realize the Arctic actually receives very little precipitation. These shrubs help to give privacy and a feeling of seclusion to their home. These lush shrubs have a wonderful swaying rhythm as breezes set them into motion.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the hardscaping that adds to the ambiance of Mediterranean gardens. There is a fountain whose sound of gurgling water is soothing and calming. Seating areas are found throughout the gardens, all giving great views and places for reading and conversation.

They were built with recycled and repurposed materials, as is other hardscaping in their landscape.

Brewer and Main would be quick to admit that Mediterranean style gardening is not for everyone. If you take pride in cultivating a velvety smooth lush lawn and don’t mind the hours required to take care of more traditional landscapes like most of us have, a Mediterranean-inspired landscape may not appeal to you.

On the other hand, if you have contemplated building a home in our sagebrush hills someday, especially if you will be depending on well water for irrigating, as Brewer and Main do, consider the advantage and beauty of Mediterranean gardening.

• Freelance gardening columnist Jim McLain can be reached at 509-697-6112 or ongardening@fairpoint.net.