Do you like flowers or mulch and gravel?
A good flower garden is cheaper to build and easier an cheaper to maintain than either gravel or mulch.
You still have to weed gravel and mulch. You know! you've tried! and it's a right pain, that's why you put the stuff down in the first place.
But a flower garden is a pleasure to work in, and a pleasure to look at.
The weeds are easy to pull because the soil is soft.