This is what the garden in Laguna looks like under the sweet gum trees. Also known as liquidambar they are some of my favorite trees in this garden because they convey the changing of the season so clearly here. I don't even mind their spiky little seed pods because the trees are planted where the pods don't bother anyone when they fall to the ground.
By dropping all their leaves they let the sunlight in during the winter months, then you know it is time for the weather to warm up when you spot the bright green leaves that seem to fill out overnight in the spring. During the summer their full canopy is a welcome shade in this area.
Liquidambars come in different hybrids that result in different leaf color in the fall. Some are red, burgundy and some are yellow. There is one in our SJC neighborhood that must have been grafted because it has all different color fall leaves on the different sections of the tree. I am planning on planting one or more in my SJC garden because I do love them.