He spoke as the keenly-awaited Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS) was launched in London.
Mr Gardner said his bank believed it could provide lending to more companies than at present, but that confidence to invest was fragile.
He said: "We can't make companies' strategic decisions for them - we can support them in executing those strategies."
Under the FLS initiative unveiled by Bank of England governor Sir Mervyn King, the commercial banks will be able to exchange collateral such as existing loans for Treasury bills at 0.25%, and use the bills to borrow cheaply on the wholesale markets, lopping 0.75%% to 1.75% off their normal borrowing costs.
Chancellor George Osborne confirmed that the scheme would ultimately supersede the £20 billion National Loan Guarantee Scheme, known as credit easing, which was unveiled in March.
The Chancellor said the scheme had made a real difference by offering more than 16,000 cheaper loans worth more than £2.5 billion to businesses across the UK, but the "more generous" FLS was now open for business.
Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said that the scheme would be judged not on its purpose but on its effectiveness.
She said: "Firstly, do the banks pass the cost reduction in their own finance on to their business customers?
"And second, does the scheme encourage business leaders to access finance, given confidence by the new funding for lending scheme that their bank will support their plans for business growth?"
Last month the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland warned that previous schemes had failed to deliver obvious benefits to the real economy, and there was an unhealthy lack of competition in the Scottish market.
John Walker, national chairman of the FSB, said yesterday: "The main objective for any government-backed scheme should be to ensure that the finance actually gets through to small firms.
"Four in 10 small firms were refused (bank credit) in the second quarter and this needs to change if the economy is to grow."
The British Bankers' Association said: "The UK's lending market is very competitive – and with support through schemes like the FLS for even lower cost borrowing, now is a very good time for UK businesses and individuals to speak to a bank about their financing needs."
Mr Gardner, regional managing director for Scotland Large Corporate (over £15 million turnover) at Lloyds Banking Group, told The Herald: "Our relationship teams are keen not just to build relationships with existing customers but to build them with other companies around Scotland."
He said there were "six major players" offering competition in the Scottish market.
On the ability of new lending to make a difference to the economy, Mr Gardner, who also heads up the bank's UK-wide team on complex transactions, said: "The issue is about confidence, which is fragile, as it returns I think we will see activity starting to increase. We are talking to customers about the art of the possible, and three years ago we weren't having those conversations."
He pointed to Scotland's strengths in oil and gas, food and drink, IT, and "high-spec manufacturing", and plcs such as Fife-based Optos, which had been expanding into the US.
"Our net lending position is up, we are lending more," he added.
Mr Gardner said: "A lot of our clients through the last three years have reviewed their business models, degeared, and built a platform for growth. As and when they have the confidence, and see the opportunities, their balance sheets are very well disposed for us to support them to do that.
"When recovery comes, there will be many Scottish companies well-positioned to grasp the opportunities.
"A strong corporate Scotland helps Scotland, which helps the corporates – there is a spiral of improvement and we want to be part of that."
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