A scientist has created what could be the most environmentally-friendly lawn in the country – but your kids won’t be able to play football on it.

Lionel Smith, a PhD researcher at the University of Reading’s School of Biological Sciences, is championing a new concept of ‘grass-free lawns’.

Lionel and his flowering lawn

Instead of laying turf or putting down grass seed, Lionel uses perennial forbs: soft-stemmed plants that spread without using seed and live for longer than two years.

And he says that a “little bit of walking” on a flowering lawn will even help it grow.

Lionel told AG: “It’s an idea I first came up with during the big drought of summer 1976.

“We came back from holiday and everything had died. The borders and grass were dead. But all the wildflowers were in flower.”

Gardeners who want to experiment with flowering lawns should opt for ornamental cultivars of British natives, Lionel advised.

Good species to start out with include red-flowered daisies (bellis), white-flowered buttercups (ranunculus) and bronze-leaved bugle (ajuga).

Flowering lawns, it’s claimed, need mowing three to nine times per year – that’s two-thirds less than the 20 to 30 cuts required for conventional lawns.

Grass-free lawns should not exceed 3.5in (9cm), or they will turn into a meadow.

Lionel added: “A lot of [traditional] laws don’t see anything but a mower, or occasionally someone walks on them. They’re susceptible to diseases and drought and their biodiversity and ecosystem is extraordinarily low.

“They need raking, cutting, feeding and watering – a lot of resources are thrown at them.”

Lionel’s belief in “flowering lawns” has led to the creation of the world’s first grass-free lawn in Notting Hill, London.

His trial lawns have never been fertilised, and apart from two waterings when they were laid, they haven’t needed irrigation.