After starting up my blog, I of course took a look to see if other expats had published anything about German garden colonies. Sure enough, I found an article in an online British newspaper written by an English person who had leased a garden in northern Germany. The article was not without the usual gratuitous remarks one expects from the British press on the subject of anything German. In this case the author complained about the plethora of rules and bureaucracy in the garden association contract and the exaggerated orderliness of things, favorite stereotypes of course.
My observation so far at our colony is that things are very laid back and "live and let live". Sure there are gardens that look like they've been manicured with the proverbial nail scissors Click any photo to enlarge),
gardens full of kitschy dwarfs,
gardens with extremely precise geometric beds, but also many many gorgeous imaginative gardens that are a joy to behold, see some examples below in my immediate vicinity in the colony (click to enlarge):
There are wonderfully overgrown gardens (albeit with beautiful big vegetables, see below):
There are even a fair number of neglected gardens. In fact right next to mine there's a garden that has not only been obviously untended for the entire summer, it also contains two huge pine trees, something expressly forbidden in the contract. The other neighbors have told me that it's been like that for ten years. But apparently no one has ever complained, and the owner is not being kicked out or forced to chop down the trees. I'm not sure the neighbors in my parents' suburban US neighborhood would be that tolerant. My own immediate neighbors are friendly, helpful, and discrete. Apparently you can operate in your own garden however you see fit as long as you don't bother anybody.
I personally am glad of all the rules concerning quiet times, garbage disposal, environmental protection, upkeep of community grounds (they are beautiful), etc. And as I wrote in my first post, the fact that German communities generously appropriate land for cheap lease to residents enables me and thousands of others to enjoy a villa-sized garden. I appreciate that and will accept their rules.
Here are some photos of the common grounds and well-kept playground in the colony (click to enlarge):