Gardner, currently recovering from an ankle injury, stood out during a loan spell at Forest during the second half of last season
However, Freedman knows he would face some stiff competition to sign the 23-year-old.
He told the Nottingham Post: “Gary is in a protective boot at the minute, after injuring his ankle. So he will not be coming any time soon.
“But he is a player we are very fond of. He was fantastic for us last season. He is maturing.
“It is a big step for him to be playing week in, week out in the Premier League. But he needs to be playing week in, week out.
“I have a lot of respect for (Aston Villa manager) Tim Sherwood. We get on very well. Tim has assured me that, if he does let him out on loan, we will be one of the clubs he would call up first.
“We would have to fight for him to get him. But I want to have to fight for every player we sign, because it means they are good and there will naturally be other teams after them.
“We will be one of the teams who are after Gary when he is fit. We will do our very, very best to make something happen.”