Dear Mrs Danvers, I live on the outskirts of London and have a smallish back garden. I don’t have the time or the inclination to mow a proper lawn. Can you suggest some alternatives?

Well, easiest of all is to go for areas with no plants. Gravel, if pea-sized, is good, but you should put it on top of a carpet of Geotextile fabric (sold in garden centres), which allows rainwater through, but stops weeds coming up. It will only need to be raked every few months to keep it level. Secondly, you can try wood chippings, which, again, must be small enough to be comfortable to walk on. A famous gardener we know did exactly that in her small town garden, and created pizzazz and colour not only with lots of herbaceous and shrubby plants, but also by painting areas of the garden to suit. Thus chairs, tables, outhouse doors, windowsills and even plant pots could be one colour in one area and a different shade in another.

You might consider a ‘lawn’ of plants. Camomile is difficult and labour intensive, but if you wished to persevere with it (in a bright position on very free-draining soil), then go for the non-flowering variety, Chamaenelum nobile Treneague, which is low-growing and has the added advantage that it smells when you tread on it you can even eat it. Thyme is another such can be eaten, smells lovely and you should go for the creeping wild thyme, Thymus serpyllum. For colourful flowering thyme lawns (which will be higher than normal), try Thymus Porlock