Some interesting possible origins of the Gardner surname:
Bardsley gives the Gardner surname as part of the class of patronymics known as occupative - in other words, Gardners worked taking care of gardens. It is also
possible, however, that the name derives from two Saxon words: "gar"
signifying a weapon dart, like a javelin, and "dyn" indicating a sound, noise
or alarm. The "er" ending denotes habitation of a specific place.
A third derivation is from Bradleys dictionary of England and Welsh surnames,
which indicates the name is derived from the Gaelic "Gairden", meaning (gair) an
enclosed or fortified place, the beacon hill and (den) an outcry or alarm. The
Gairden-er, then was a warrior, one who bears arms, and is spelled today as
Gardiner, Gardener or Gardner.
The name Gardiner appears in English Medieval registers, and the earliest
recorded (1273) ones include the French masculine article, "le". One of the
earliest of the Gardiner names found are Geoffrey le Gardiner, of Oxfordshire;
Ralph le Gardiner, of Huntingdonshire; and William le Gardiner, of Lincolnshire.
Several Gardiner-Gardner families in England have been granted armorial
bearings, some of the resembling each other in essential features, and others
in minor details. Sir Osbern Gardiner, of Wigan Co., Lancashire, has a Coat
of Arms nearly identical to the one belonging to the Gardiner family of
Newport, Rhode Island. There is a tradition that Sir Osbern (b. 1128) earned
the crest on his Coat of Arms in 1191 by chopping through the shoulder of a
saracen who was about to kill Richard Couer de Lion.
In the Americas, George Gardiner of Newport spelled his name with an "i", as
did most of his relatives who remained in Rhode Island. Those of the family
who moved to Connecticut generall dropped the "i", possibly to distinguish them
from the Lion Gardiner family of Gardiner's Island, New York.
For information about the connection between New England Gardners and those
across the Atlantic Ocean, check out this article.