The thatched cottage’s roof looks quizzically, it seems, at the voluptuous hedges and greenery that spill down to the open white picket gate. Lopsided topiary and trees in the next door gardens reach heavenwards, the only space left open to them. In a wonderfully wayward scene, brambles and weeds vying with flowers and everything burgeoning, this is nature barely under man’s control.

Cottages at Burghclere, painted by Stanley Spencer in 1930 in breaks from working on his masterly Sandham Memorial Chapel murals nearby, is a terrific late example of his garden view and landscape paintings. These were his bread and butter. His “potboilers”, he disparagingly called them, preferring his reputation to be forged on his figurative, visionary works. Critics favoured those too, often ignoring the more accessible garden pictures, but public demand was so great, perhaps due to their perceived ‘Englishness’ that he could barely keep up. Now, in Stanley Spencer and the English Garden (until October 2) we have the rare pleasure of seeing these lovely works from the 1920s, 30s and 40s as a group.

This groundbreaking exhibition covers a crucial, but ignored part of Spencer’s work. The theme, argues Dr Steven Parissien, Compton Verney’s director and co-curator of the show, is as relevant today as it was in Interwar Britain: the development of the countryside, and the ensuing confrontation between natural environment and man-made structures.

Themes emerge: man’s intervention in nature (plants in rows, fences, posts, ‘echoes’ of the First World War, trenches and so forth, suggests Parissien); flowers in full bloom; gardens mostly devoid of people. And, as with flowers, this grandson of a master builder accurately observes architecture, from ordinary homes (The Red House, Wangford, 1926; council houses at Cookham Rise, 1938) to grander house commissions (Wisteria at Englefield, 1954).

An elevated viewpoint is common too: looking down or peeping over a fence or wall into a garden — for Spencer the “feeling of wonder at what was the other side” paramount.

One or two religious pictures creep in. The Betrayal (1936), for instance, Spencer’s peculiar view of the Biblical scene against a background of Cookham houses, backyards, and brick and flint walls. A few photographs and a film give background; better still the excellent essays in the accompanying book, while garden notes alongside a number of paintings add breadth.

I thoroughly enjoyed this show. It’s an unrivalled opportunity to see the colourful suburban gardens and long-gone landscapes that were for this quintessentially English eccentric genius, little visions of a personal heaven.